Unraveling the Mystery of Strange Metals: Quantum Noise Experiments Provide New Insights

Researchers at Rice University make groundbreaking discoveries about the flow of electricity in strange metals

In a groundbreaking study published in Science, researchers from Rice University have uncovered new evidence about the behavior of electricity in strange metals. These quantum materials, known for their unusual properties, have long puzzled scientists. The study’s findings provide the first direct evidence that electricity flows through strange metals in a liquid-like form that cannot be explained by conventional theories. The measurements of quantum charge fluctuations, known as “shot noise,” reveal that the noise is significantly suppressed in strange metals compared to ordinary wires. This discovery challenges the prevailing notion of quasiparticles as the carriers of charge in metals and raises questions about the fundamental nature of charge transport in these unique materials.

Exploring the Nature of Strange Metals:

Unraveling the Mystery of Strange Metals

Strange metals are a class of materials that exhibit unconventional behavior at low temperatures. One such material, YbRh2Si2, was the focus of the recent study. This compound undergoes a transition from a non-magnetic state to a magnetic state when cooled below a critical temperature. At slightly higher temperatures, it behaves as a “heavy fermion” metal, with charge-carrying quasiparticles that are much more massive than individual electrons.

Quasiparticles, which were first proposed over six decades ago, are theoretical constructs used to describe the collective behavior of electrons in metals. They are believed to arise from the complex interactions between electrons and represent the combined effect of these interactions as a single quantum object. However, previous theoretical studies have suggested that strange metal charge carriers may not conform to the quasiparticle model.

Unveiling the Surprising Results:

Shot Noise Experiments Shed Light on Charge Transport

To investigate the nature of charge transport in strange metals, the researchers performed shot noise experiments on nanoscale wires made from YbRh2Si2 crystals. Shot noise is a measure of the granularity of charge flow, reflecting the discrete nature of charge carriers. The experiments revealed that the shot noise in strange metals is significantly lower than expected, indicating that charge transport occurs in a more collective and complex manner.

According to Doug Natelson, the corresponding author of the study, these findings challenge the conventional understanding of how charge moves through materials. The results suggest that quasiparticles may not be well-defined entities or may not exist at all in strange metals. Natelson emphasizes the need to develop new concepts and vocabulary to describe the collective movement of charge in these materials.

The Significance and Implications:

A Paradigm Shift in Understanding Strange Metals

The low shot noise observed in strange metals provides crucial empirical evidence that supports a theory of quantum criticality proposed by lead theorist Qimiao Si and his collaborators. This theory suggests that electrons in strange metals are pushed to the brink of localization, leading to the loss of quasiparticles across the Fermi surface. The researchers’ calculations align with the experimental results, further bolstering the idea that strange metals defy the traditional quasiparticle picture.

The implications of these findings extend beyond YbRh2Si2 and raise questions about the broader nature of strange metal behavior. The presence of similar linear-in-temperature resistivity, characteristic of strange metals, in various physical systems with distinct microscopic physics suggests a common underlying mechanism. This discovery opens up new avenues of research to explore the fundamental principles governing the transport of charge in different strange metal compounds.


The recent quantum noise experiments conducted at Rice University have provided groundbreaking insights into the behavior of electricity in strange metals. The suppression of shot noise in these materials challenges the prevailing notion of quasiparticles as the carriers of charge and calls for a reevaluation of our understanding of charge transport in metals. The findings support a theory of quantum criticality and highlight the need to develop new concepts and vocabulary to describe the collective movement of charge in strange metals. This research opens up exciting possibilities for further exploration of the unique properties of strange metals and their potential applications in future technologies.






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