The most complex interactions of fundamental particles require extremely powerful accelerators, which ought to be huge to provide that kind of energy. But sometimes, it is possible to trick mother nature into delivering some new fundamental truths with a much more compact table-top design.
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The discovery was possible thanks to RTe3, or rare-earth tritelluride, a well-studied quantum material that can be examined at room temperature in a “tabletop” experiment. This material is very special because the electrons shared among the compound self-organize with a density that is periodic in space – they create a charge density wave.
And this charge density wave is quite rare as it forms at high temperatures (and not absolute zero like common in experiments) and is modulated by both the charge density and the atomic orbits. And the Higgs Boson plays a role in both. Using lasers, the team were able to alter the charge density wave, and see the response of the Higgs and related components.
“As such, we were able to reveal the hidden magnetic component and prove the discovery of the first axial Higgs mode,” Professor Kenneth Burch, from Boston College, said in a statement.
Using the correct choice of lasers, it was possible to test different hypotheses and they did so in a way that allowed them to look at the collective properties of Higgs Bosons in this material and hunt for possible excited modes. And the one that seems to have been discovered is a version of the Higgs with angular momentum, something the “regular” Higgs Boson doesn’t have.
“The detection of the axial Higgs was predicted in high-energy particle physics to explain dark matter,” Burch said. “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 table top experiment where we achieve quantum control of the mode by just changing the polarization of light.”
This work suggests that charge density waves have the ability to be employed as quantum sensors that can evaluate other quantum systems. But a full understanding of the Higgs and its possible excitation modes might help answer fundamental questions in particle physics such as dark matter and the limits of the standard model of particle physics.