Scientists have shown evidence of local symmetry breaking in a quantum material upon heating. They believe these local states are associated with electronic orbitals that serve as orbital degeneracy lifting (ODL) "precursors" to the titanium (Ti) dimers (two molecules linked together) formed when the material is cooled to low temperature. Understanding the role of these ODL precursors may offer scientists a path toward designing materials with the desired technologically relevant properties, which typically emerge at low temperatures.
“Not surprisingly, this low-temperature regime is well studied,” said Emil Bozin, a physicist in the X-ray Scattering Group of the Condensed Matter Physics and Materials Science (CMPMS) Division at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory. “Meanwhile, the high-temperature regime remains largely unexplored because it’s associated with relatively high symmetry, which is considered uninteresting.”