Ultrathin copper-oxide layers behave like quantum spin liquid: The magnetic measurements revealed that when the slabs contained four or more copper-oxide layers, they showed anti-ferromagnetic ordering - just like thick, bulk crystals of the same materials, and even up to the same temperature. However, thinner slabs that contained just one or two copper-oxide layers showed an unexpected result: "While the magnetic moments, or spins, were still present and had about the same magnitude, there was no long-range static anti-ferromagnetic order, not even on the scale of a few nanometers. Rather, the spins were fluctuating wildly, changing their direction very fast," Bozovic said.
Even more telling, this effect was stronger the lower the temperature of the sample. "That means these fluctuations could not be of thermal origin and must be of quantum origin - quantum objects fluctuate even at zero temperature," Bozovic explained.