True to form, a “strange metal” quantum material proved strangely quiet in recent quantum noise experiments at Rice University. The noise measurements provide the first evidence that electricity seems to flow through strange metals in an unusual liquidlike form that cannot be readily explained using charge packets known as quasiparticles. The experiments were performed on nanoscale wires of a quantum material YbRh2Si2, which contains a high degree of quantum entanglement that produces an unusual temperature-dependent behavior different from normal metals.

Some prior theoretical studies have suggested that the charge in a strange metal might not be carried by quasiparticles, and shot noise experiments allowed researchers to gather the first direct evidence to test the idea. Applying the technique in YbRh2Si2 crystals presented significant technical challenges. The lead theorist on the study said the results are consistent with a theory of quantum criticality he published in 2001. The larger question is whether similar behavior might arise in other compounds that exhibit strange metal behavior.

The research was supported by the Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, the European Research Council, the Austrian Science Fund, the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Welch Foundation, and the Vannevar Bush Faculty Fellowship.

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