Editorial Feature

What are Quantum Oscillations?

Quantum oscillations are a fundamental phenomenon in quantum physics, induced by periodic variations in certain physical properties of materials when exposed to an external magnetic field. The oscillations provide information about the energy states of electrons and their interactions within a given material. This is crucial in understanding the electronic properties of materials, especially metals and semiconductors.

What are Quantum Oscillations?

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Fundamentals of Quantum Oscillations

Quantum oscillations arise from the quantization of electron energy levels in a material subjected to a magnetic field, a concept rooted in quantum mechanics. When a magnetic field is applied to a material, the motion of electrons within the material becomes quantized into discrete energy levels called Landau levels.

As the magnetic field strength varies, these Landau levels move, causing periodic changes in the density of states at the Fermi level. These changes result in observable oscillations in measurable quantities like electrical resistance and magnetization, which are the hallmarks of quantum oscillations.1

Types of Quantum Oscillations

Quantum oscillations can be categorized into different types based on the physical properties they affect. Understanding these types, such as the Shubnikov-de Haas (SdH) effect and the de Haas-van Alphen effect (dHvA), is crucial for understanding their distinct roles and behaviors in various materials.

Shubnikov-de Haas Effect: The SdH effect is observed as oscillations in the electrical resistivity of a material. This effect occurs when an external magnetic field causes electrons to occupy discrete Landau levels, leading to variations in the scattering rate of charge carriers. These variations result in oscillations in the material's resistivity. It provides important information about the electronic properties, such as effective mass and mobility of charge carriers.1

de Haas-van Alphen Effect: The dHvA effect is seen as oscillations in the magnetic susceptibility or magnetization of a material. Similar to the SdH effect, the dHvA effect arises from the quantization of electron energy levels in a magnetic field. The periodic changes in magnetization provide information about the density of states at the Fermi level and the geometry of the Fermi surface. This effect is particularly useful for studying the electronic structure of metals and semimetals.1

Other Quantum Oscillation Phenomena: In addition to the SdH and dHvA effects, other quantum oscillation phenomena include the Quantum Hall Effect (QHE) and the Aharonov-Bohm effect. The QHE occurs in two-dimensional electron systems under strong magnetic fields, leading to quantized Hall conductance. The Aharonov-Bohm effect involves oscillations in the phase of a particle's wavefunction due to a magnetic flux, even when the particle travels through a region with zero magnetic field.1

Quantum Oscillations in Weyl Semimetals

Weyl semimetals, characterized by their Weyl fermions and unique band structures, have shown intriguing quantum oscillatory behavior. A recent article in Nature Review Materials reported the observation of quantum oscillations in TaAs, a prototypical Weyl semimetal, providing direct evidence of the chiral anomaly and topological Fermi arcs. These findings are important for understanding the exotic transport mechanisms of Weyl semimetals and their potential applications in electronic devices.2

Quantum Oscillations and Quantum Phase Transitions

A recent article in Physics Reports explored the relationship between quantum oscillations and quantum phase transitions. The study demonstrated that quantum oscillations can serve as a powerful tool for investigating quantum critical points and the associated changes in electronic structure. This approach has provided new insights into the behavior of materials near quantum phase transitions, with implications for understanding novel phases of matter.3

Two-Dimensional Electron Systems

Recent studies on two-dimensional electron systems (2DES) in materials like graphene and transition metal dichalcogenides (TMDs) revealed that quantum oscillations can be used to probe electronic interactions and many-body effects at low temperatures. These studies, published in ACS Nanoletters, showed that 2DES exhibit rich quantum oscillatory behavior, offering a platform for studying quantum Hall effects and other quantum phenomena.4

Applications of Quantum Oscillations

Quantum oscillations have a broad range of applications in modern science and technology, providing essential insights and enabling advancements in various fields. These applications span from material science to quantum computing, significantly impacting both research and practical innovations.

Material Characterization

Studying quantum oscillations provides valuable insights into the electronic properties of materials. Researchers can use oscillatory patterns to study critical properties like the mass of electrons, the configuration of the Fermi surface, and the existence of electronic correlations. This information is essential for designing materials with specific electronic properties for use in advanced technologies.1

Quantum Computing

The study of quantum oscillations in topological materials has significant implications for quantum computing. Topological states, which are stable against perturbations, are promising candidates for robust qubits in quantum computers. Understanding quantum oscillations in these materials helps in identifying and engineering such states, potentially leading to more stable and efficient quantum computing systems.5


Quantum oscillations also play a crucial role in spintronics, a field that exploits the spin of electrons for information processing. Materials exhibiting strong spin-orbit coupling, often studied through their quantum oscillatory behavior, are particularly interesting for spintronic applications. These materials can enable the development of faster and more energy-efficient electronic devices.6

High-Performance Sensors

The sensitivity of quantum oscillations to external magnetic fields and material impurities makes them useful for developing high-performance sensors. Quantum oscillation-based sensors can detect very small changes in magnetic fields or material properties. These materials can have potential applications in medical diagnostics, environmental monitoring, and other fields requiring precise measurement capabilities.7

Challenges in Studying Quantum Oscillations

While quantum oscillations offer profound insights into the electronic properties of materials, their study comes with several challenges. One significant challenge is the requirement for extremely low temperatures and high magnetic fields to observe these oscillations clearly. Such conditions necessitate sophisticated cryogenic and magnet technology, which can be costly and complex to maintain.

Another challenge is handling and interpreting data. Quantum oscillation experiments generate large amounts of data that require careful analysis to extract meaningful information. This process often involves distinguishing between various types of oscillations and understanding their origins, which can be particularly complex in materials with multiple interacting electrons and other quasiparticles.

Quantum oscillations are also highly sensitive to impurities and defects in the material. Even minor imperfections can significantly alter the oscillatory behavior, complicating the analysis and interpretation of results. Achieving and maintaining the necessary material purity and structural integrity requires advanced fabrication techniques and meticulous experimental procedures.

Recent Advances in Quantum Oscillations Research

Recent studies have highlighted the role of quantum oscillations in topological materials, which possess unique electronic states that are robust against perturbations. Research published in Quantum Materials demonstrated the presence of quantum oscillations in topological insulators and semimetals, revealing new insights into their surface states and bulk properties.8

Quantum oscillations have also been pivotal in understanding high-temperature superconductors. A recent study published in PNAS explored quantum oscillations in cuprate superconductors, providing evidence of a Fermi surface reconstruction in the pseudogap phase. This reconstruction is believed to be linked to the mysterious mechanisms behind high-temperature superconductivity, paving the way for the development of more efficient superconducting materials.9

Future Prospects and Conclusions

The study of quantum oscillations continues to evolve, with significant implications for both fundamental physics and practical applications. Recent developments in experimental techniques and theoretical models will enhance the understanding of quantum oscillations and their underlying mechanisms. For instance, integrating machine learning and data analytics into quantum oscillation studies could lead to discovering new patterns and relationships within complex datasets, accelerating the development of novel materials and technologies.

In conclusion, quantum oscillations are a powerful tool to study the electronic structure and properties of materials, providing an in-depth understanding of quantum phenomena and material behavior. As research in this area progresses, it promises to drive innovations in various fields, from quantum computing and advanced electronics to new materials with unprecedented properties. The continued exploration of quantum oscillations will contribute to the understanding of the quantum world and its myriad applications.

More from AZoQuantum: Quantum Sensors: Unveiling the Mysteries of Dark Matter

References and Further Reading

  1. Zhang, L. et al. (2024). Comprehensive investigation of quantum oscillations in semimetal using an ac composite magnetoelectric technique with ultrahigh sensitivity. NPJ Quantum Mater. doi.org/10.1038/s41535-024-00622-w
  2. Nagaosa, N.; Morimoto, T.; Tokura, Y. (2020). Transport, magnetic and optical properties of Weyl materials. Nat. Rev. Mater5 (8), 621–636. doi.org/10.1038/s41578-020-0208-y
  3. Rossini, D.; Vicari, E. (2021). Coherent and dissipative dynamics at quantum phase transitions. Phys. Rep. doi.org/10.1016/j.physrep.2021.08.003
  4. Popert, A. et al. (2022). Optical Sensing of Fractional Quantum Hall Effect in Graphene. Nano Lett. doi.org/10.1021/acs.nanolett.2c02000
  5. Yeter-Aydeniz, K.; Bangar, S.; Siopsis, G.; C. Pooser, R. (2022). Collective neutrino oscillations on a quantum computer. Quantum Inf. Process. doi.org/10.1007/s11128-021-03348-x
  6. Gupta, A. et al. (2022).  KTaO 3 —The New Kid on the Spintronics Block. Adv. Mater. doi.org/10.1002/adma.202106481
  7. Huang, Y. et al. (2020). A Chip‐Scale Oscillation‐Mode Optomechanical Inertial Sensor Near the Thermodynamical Limits. Laser & Photonics Rev14 (5), 1800329. doi.org/10.1002/lpor.201800329
  8. Liu, I.-L. et al. (2020). Quantum oscillations from networked topological interfaces in a Weyl semimetal. NPJ Quantum Mater, 5 (1). doi.org/10.1038/s41535-020-00264-8
  9. Hsu, Y.-T. et al. (2021). Unconventional quantum vortex matter state hosts quantum oscillations in the underdoped high-temperature cuprate superconductors. Proc. National Acad. Sci. doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2021216118

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Ankit Singh

Written by

Ankit Singh

Ankit is a research scholar based in Mumbai, India, specializing in neuronal membrane biophysics. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry and has a keen interest in building scientific instruments. He is also passionate about content writing and can adeptly convey complex concepts. Outside of academia, Ankit enjoys sports, reading books, and exploring documentaries, and has a particular interest in credit cards and finance. He also finds relaxation and inspiration in music, especially songs and ghazals.


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