March 12, 2015

How does order emerge?

Scientists from the MPQ, LMU, and the FUB analyse how fast order can appear in a quantum-mechanical system.

During the freezing of water, the initially unordered molecules start to form an ordered crystal, namely ice. During this phase transition, they rearrange from an unordered into a more ordered state. This setting naturally poses one important question: How long does this phase transition take, i.e. how long does it take for each molecule to find its place in the crystal? The answer to this and similar questions has important consequences in e.g. metallurgy, since the size of the resulting crystal grains plays a major role in determining the elasticity or brittleness of steel. While these questions have been studied extensively for classical systems, they are relatively unexplored in the context of quantum systems.

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