Physicists Discover Elusive New Particle Through Tabletop Experiment

Materials containing the axial Higgs mode might be used as quantum sensors to assess other quantum systems and aid in the resolution of lingering issues in particle physics.

All known matter is made up of particles called quarks (which make up protons and neutrons) and leptons (which include electrons) according to the Standard Model of Particle Physics, scientists' current best explanation for describing the most basic building blocks of the cosmos. Quarks and leptons are influenced by force-carrying particles, which are part of a larger group of bosons.

Despite its effectiveness in understanding the cosmos, the Standard Model has limits. Dark matter and dark energy are two examples, and it's feasible that yet-to-be-discovered particles will one day explain these puzzles.

Today, an interdisciplinary group of scientists lead by Boston College physicists revealed the discovery of the axial Higgs mode, a magnetic cousin of the mass-defining Higgs Boson particle.

The discovery of the long-sought Higgs Boson a decade ago changed the way we think about mass. The magnetic moment of the axial Higgs mode, unlike its parent, necessitates a more sophisticated form of the theory to explain its features, according to Kenneth Burch, a primary co-author of the article "Axial Higgs Mode Detected by Quantum Pathway Interference in RTe3."

Theories that predicted the presence of such a mode have been used to explain "dark matter," the almost invisible stuff that makes up much of the cosmos but can only be seen by gravity, according to Burch.

The researchers concentrated on RTe3, or rare-earth tritelluride, a well-studied quantum material that can be probed at room temperature in a "tabletop" experimental setup, rather than the Higgs Boson, which was discovered by tests in a huge particle collider.

“It’s not every day you find a new particle sitting on your tabletop,” Burch stated.

According to Burch, RTe3 possesses features that are similar to the hypothesis that creates the axial Higgs phase. The main issue in identifying Higgs particles in general, he added, is their weak connection to experimental probes like light beams. Similarly, uncovering the delicate quantum features of particles frequently necessitates elaborate experimental setups that include massive magnets and high-powered lasers, as well as freezing samples to extremely low temperatures.

The team claims to have overcome these obstacles by employing a novel method of light scattering and selecting the right quantum simulator, which is simply a material that mimics the needed qualities for investigation.

The researchers focused on a chemical that has long been recognized to have a "charge density wave," or a condition in which electrons self-organize with a periodic density in space, according to Burch.

He went on to say that the underlying theory of this wave is similar to parts of the standard model of particle physics. The charge density wave, on the other hand, is particularly unique in this situation; it appears considerably beyond room temperature and involves modulation of both the charge density and the atomic orbits. This enables the Higgs Boson associated with this charge density wave to have extra properties, such as being axial, or containing angular momentum.

Burch added that the scientists employed light scattering to expose the nuanced nature of this mode, in which a laser is shone on the material and may alter hue and polarization. The polarization is sensitive to the symmetry components of the particle, whereas the color shift is caused by the light producing the Higgs Boson in the material.

Furthermore, the particle might be generated with varied components – such as one without magnetism or one pointing up – by carefully selecting the incident and outgoing polarization. They leveraged the fact that these components cancel in one configuration, which is a fundamental property of quantum physics. They do, however, add for a distinct setup.

“As such, we were able to reveal the hidden magnetic component and prove the discovery of the first axial Higgs mode,” Burch explained.

“The detection of the axial Higgs was predicted in high-energy particle physics to explain dark matter,” Burch added. “However, it has never been observed. Its appearance in a condensed matter system was completely surprising and heralds the discovery of a new broken symmetry state that had not been predicted. Unlike the extreme conditions typically required to observe new particles, this was done at room temperature in a tabletop experiment where we achieve quantum control of the mode by just changing the polarization of light.”

The team's ostensibly simple and accessible experimental procedures, according to Burch, may be used to research in other fields.

“Many of these experiments were performed by an undergraduate in my lab,” Burch stated. “The approach can be straightforwardly applied to the quantum properties of numerous collective phenomena including modes in superconductors, magnets, ferroelectrics, and charge density waves. 
Furthermore, we bring the study of quantum interference in materials with correlated and/or topological phases to room temperature overcoming the difficulty of extreme experimental conditions." 

Burch was joined on the report by undergraduate student Grant McNamara, recent PhD graduate Yiping Wang, and post-doctoral researcher Md Mofazzel Hosen from Boston College. According to Burch, Wang earned the American Physical Society's Best Dissertation in Magnetism in part because of her work on the project.
Researchers from BC, Harvard University, Princeton University, the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Yale University, the University of Washington, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences all contributed, according to Burch.

“This shows the power of interdisciplinary efforts in revealing and controlling new phenomena,” Burch remarked. “It’s not every day you get optics, chemistry, physical theory, materials science and physics together in one work.”