Bust of Max Planck

Highlights

Publication Highlights

The full spectrum of a quantum many-body system in one shot

Quantum excited states underpin new states of matter, support biological processes such as vision, and determine opto-electronic properties of photovoltaic devices. Yet, while ground-state properties can be determined by rather accurate computational methods, there remains a need for theoretical and computational developments to target excited states efficiently. Inspired by the duplication of the Hilbert space used to study black-hole entanglement and the electronic pairing of conventional superconductivity, researchers from the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems and their collaborators from Munich and Modena have developed a new scheme to compute the full spectrum of a quantum many-body Hamiltonian, rather than only its ground or lowest-excited states. An important feature of their proposed scheme is that these spectra can be computed in a one-shot calculation. The scheme thus provides a novel variational platform to excited-state physics. It is also suitable for efficient implementation on quantum computers, so has the potential to enable unprecedented calculations of excited-state processes of quantum many-body systems.

C. L. Benavides-Riveros et al., Phys. Rev. Lett. 129, 066401 (2022), Editors' Suggestion
weiterlesen
Publication Highlights

Cells sense their way together

Much like animals can trace odors, cells also move toward certain chemicals. In fact, cells often do this in groups, which can be up to millions of individuals strong. But how do these cell populations manage to move together as a cohesive unit while following chemical cues? New work by Ricard Alert of the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems and collaborators shows that the answer lies in limitations in the ability of cells to sense chemicals at high concentrations. Thus, the work bridges scales by connecting the sensing of tiny molecules by individual cells to the shape and motion of an entire cell population, which can be centimeters or even larger in size. The work is important because it reveals a potentially general principle: Sensing—a distinguishing feature of living systems—governs the ability of cells to migrate in groups. This principle could operate in many other examples of collective migration, as cells and other living creatures can sense and follow a variety of stimuli, such as electric fields, temperature, and light intensity. Finally, the new results open a tantalizing question for future work: Has evolution pushed the sensing limitations of cells to ensure that they can follow chemical cues as a cohesive group? (Image credit: Mariona Esquerda Ciutat.)

Ricard Alert, Alejandro Martínez-Calvo, and Sujit S. Datta Phys. Rev. Lett. 128, 148101
weiterlesen
Publication Highlights

Anomalous dynamics and equilibration in the classical Heisenberg chain

The search for departures from standard hydrodynamics in many-body systems has yielded a number of promising leads, especially in low dimension. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems studied one of the simplest classical interacting lattice models, the nearest-neighbour Heisenberg chain, with temperature as tuning parameter. Their numerics expose strikingly different spin dynamics between the antiferromagnet, where it is largely diffusive, and the ferromagnet, where they observe strong evidence either of spin superdiffusion or an extremely slow crossover to diffusion. At low temperatures in the ferromagnet, they observe an extremely long-lived regime of remarkably clean Kardar-Parisi-Zhang (KPZ) scaling (see figure). The anomalous behaviour also governs the equilibration after a quench, and, remarkably, is apparent even at very high temperatures.

A. J. McRoberts, T. Bilitewski, M. Haque, and R. Moessner, Phys. Rev. B 105, L100403
weiterlesen
Publication Highlights

Non-Markovian Quantum State Diffusion: Matrix-product-state approach to the hierarchy of pure states

An important but challenging task is to treat mesoscopic systems that are coupled to a complex environment at finite temperature. Alexander Eisfeld of the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems and his collaborators have derived a stochastic hierarchy of matrix product states (HOMPS) for non-Markovian dynamics, which is numerically exact and efficient. In this way the exponential complexity of the problem can be reduced to scale polynomially with the number of particles and modes of the environment. An additional feature caused by the stochastic noise is that individual trajectories stay well localized. The validity and efficiency of HOMPS is demonstrated for the spin-boson model and long chains where each site is coupled to a structured, strongly non-Markovian environment.
Xing Gao, Jiajun Ren, Alexander Eisfeld, and Zhigang Shuai, Phys. Rev. A 105, L030202
weiterlesen
Publication Highlights

Left-right symmetry of zebrafish embryos requires surface tension

Bilateral symmetry of the vertebrate musculoskeletal system is necessary for proper function and its defects are associated with debilitating conditions, such as scoliosis. In a collaboration with biologists from the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, Marko Popović of the Max Planck Institute for Physics of Complex Systems has studied the early stage of body segmentation using zebrafish as a model organism. They discovered that biochemical signalling and transcriptional processes that drive segmentation are not sufficient to explain the precision and symmetry of tissue shapes and sizes. However, they found that surface tension forces of the newly formed segments are a crucial component of the mechanism that is responsible for recovery and maintenance of the symmetric body plan. This discovery highlights the importance of physical interactions for precise and robust development of living beings.
S. R. Naganthan, M. Popovic, and A. C. Oates, Nature 605, 516-521 (2022)
weiterlesen
Publication Highlights

Novel quantum phases of droplets

Attractive forces are ubiquitous in nature: they glue very different objects ranging from atomic nuclei, droplets of water, to stars, galaxies, and black holes. Peter Karpov and Francesco Piazza of the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems have now demonstrated that highly tuneable attractive interactions can be engineered artificially using optical cavities, leading to various novel phases of quantum droplets of ultracold atoms. Upon tuning the cavity-mediated interactions it is possible to switch between superfluid droplets and incompressible water-like droplets, as well as to realise crystalline and even more exotic supersolid droplets combining superfluid and solid properties.
P. Karpov and F. Piazza, Phys. Rev. Lett. 128, 103201 (2022)
weiterlesen
Publication Highlights

Molecular Assembly Lines in Active Droplets

A fundamental question in biology is how complexes of several molecules can assemble reliably. Tyler Harmon and Frank Jülicher of the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems have now shown that a molecular assembly line can be self-organized by active droplets where it can form spontaneously. This assembly line arranges different assembly steps spatially so that a specific order of assembly is achieved and incorrect assembly is suppressed. They have shown how assembly bands are positioned and controlled and discuss the rate and fidelity of assembly as compared to other assembly scenarios.
T. S. Harmon and F. Jülicher, Phys. Rev. Lett. 128, 108102 (2022)
weiterlesen
Publication Highlights

Dirac Magnons, Nodal Lines, and Nodal Plane in Elemental Gadolinium

The exploration of band topology in crystalline solids has been at the forefront of condensed matter physics for many years in efforts tying together theoretical physics, materials science and powerful spectroscopic techniques. One relatively new avenue is the exploration of band topology in the spin wave, or magnon, excitations of magnetic materials. Spin wave topology is connected to novel magnetic transport properties, little explored symmetries and surface magnetism and offers a new platform to study interactions. One of the main current directions is to find new materials with topologically interesting band structures and this new study does exactly this by establishing the existence of Dirac nodal lines and a nodal plane in the magnons of elemental gadolinium.
Gadolinium is a hexagonal closed packed magnetic metal in which, at around room temperature, the magnetic moments order into a simple ferromagnetic structure. In this new study, a team of experimentalists at Oakridge National Lab in the US together with theory collaborators explored the magnetic excitations of gadolinium in the ordered phase in unprecedented detail using inelastic neutron scattering. They found that gadolinium hosts Dirac magnons in the form of nodal lines extending along the zone corners. The existence of the nodal lines can be seen to arise from the presence of combined spin rotation and crystalline symmetries providing a first experimental example of the importance of such symmetries for band topology. In the vicinity of the nodal lines, the neutron scattering intensity can be seen to wind around the lines from strong to weak and in antiphase between the two bands (as shown in the figure). This intensity signature is a robust prediction connected to the nontrivial topology of these points. From the existence of the nodal lines one may infer the existence of magnon surface states $-$ a challenging target for future experiments.
Furthermore, the nonsymmorphic crystal symmetries together with spin rotation enforce the presence of a degenerate plane of magnon excitations. Just as the nodal lines exhibit winding of the neutron intensity in their vicinity, the nodal plane is linked to a sharp flip in the intensity on paths crossing through the plane. Both the nodal plane and the intensity jump are clearly observed in the data.

Phys. Rev. Lett. 128, 097201 (2022)
weiterlesen
Publication Highlights

Flowing by gelating - gelation enables the correct architecture of the mitotic spindle.

In the cell, the mitotic spindle is a structure that forms during cell division and segregates the chromosomes into the two future daughter cells. Spindles are made of dynamic filaments called microtubules that are continuously transported towards the two opposite poles of the spindle by molecular motors. However, scientists still do not understand how these poleward flows are generated and how they lead to spindle self-organization. Researchers in the group led by Jan Brugués at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG), the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems (MPI-PKS) and the Center for Systems Biology Dresden (CSBD), worked together with Frank Jülicher’s research group at the MPI-PKS to understand how such poleward flows are generated in spindles. In 2018, the Brugués lab was able to show that the size of spindles is controlled by microtubule branching: In the vicinity of DNA, new microtubules branch off from mother microtubules like branches in a tree. However, such a branching process naturally leads to microtubules branching outwards from chromosomes, whereas in real spindles they branch inwards to interact with chromosomes during segregation. In the current study, published in the journal Nature Physics, the scientists combined in vitro experiments with physical models to show that the poleward flows together with a gelation process driven by motor crosslinking, allows for the correct microtubule inward branching observed in spindles. Benjamin Dalton an author in the study, explains, “The spindle is a highly dynamic structure where its building blocks are constantly created, transported and destroyed within seconds. Still, the spindle can survive for as long as an hour and the microtubule flows are remarkably constant throughout the structure. It’s difficult to reconcile these things.” David Oriola, another author in the study explains, “By tracking the movement of single microtubules using fluorescent microscopy, we found that the spindle did not behave as a simple fluid, but rather as a gel.” Combining large-scale simulations with experimental data, the researchers found that gelation is necessary for the generation of the poleward flows, and in turn, such flows are in charge of organizing the microtubule network such that microtubules point inwards rather than outwards.

Dalton et al.: A gelation transition enables the self-organization of bipolar metaphase spindles. Nature Physics, 10 February 2022, doi: 10.1038/s41567-021-01467-x
weiterlesen
Publication Highlights

Reading DNA is team work

Life starts with one cell. When an organism develops, dividing cells specialize to form the variety of tissues and organs that build up the adult body, while keeping the same genetic material – contained in our DNA. In a process known as transcription, parts of the DNA – the genes ¬– are copied into a messenger molecule -the ribonucleic acid (RNA) – that carries the information needed to produce proteins, the building blocks of life. The parts of our DNA that are read and transcribed determine the fate of our cells. The readers of the DNA are proteins called transcription factors: they bind to specific sites on the DNA and activate the transcription process. How they recognize which location on the DNA they need to bind to and how these are distinguished from other random binding sites in the genome remains an open question. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG) and the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems (MPI-PKS), both located in Dresden, show that thousands of individual transcription factors team up and interact with each other. They collectively wet the DNA surface by forming liquid droplets that can identify clusters of binding sites on the DNA surface.

Jose A. Morin et al: Sequence dependent surface condensation of a pioneer transcription factor on DNA. Nature Physics. 03. February 2022, doi: 10.1038/s41567-021-01462-2
weiterlesen