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Imaging quantum fluctuations near criticality

Authors: Anna Kremen, Hasan Khan, Yen Lee Loh, Tatyana Baturina, Nandini Trivedi, Aviad Frydman  and  Beena Kalisky

Nature Physics, 14, pages 1205–1210 (2018)

Abstract: A quantum phase transition (QPT) occurs between two competing phases of matter at zero temperature, driven by quantum fluctuations. Although the presence of these fluctuations is well established, they have not been locally imaged in space, and their local dynamics has not been studied so far. We use a scanning superconducting quantum interference device to image quantum fluctuations near the QPT from a superconductor to an insulator. We find fluctuations of the diamagnetic response in both space and time that survive well below the transition temperature, demonstrating their quantum nature. The fluctuations appear as telegraph-like noise with a range of characteristic times and a non-monotonic temperature dependence, revealing unexpected quantum granularity. The lateral dimension of these fluctuations grows towards criticality, offering a new measurable length scale. Our results provide physical insight into the reorganization of phases across a QPT, with implications for any theoretical description. This paves a new route for future quantum information applications.


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