In Nature, there exist materials with exotic properties that cannot be understood in the framework of classical theories. Such properties, however, are beautifully described by more sophisticated theoretical tools involving quantum mechanics. Such materials are now known as the “quantum materials”. The range of exotic properties exhibited by the quantum materials is extremely broad and includes superconductivity, superfluidity, ferromagnetism, quantum hall effect, spin-liquidity, topological insulation, to name a few.
Superconductors, discovered by Kammerlingh Onnes, 1911, were first to emerge as quantum materials. In normal metals, the resistance arises due to inelastic scattering between the charge carriers (electrons) and defects in the periodic crystal lattice. The defects or scattering centres can be any distortion to the periodicity of the lattice like those due to presence of impurity or the thermal vibration of the lattice points. In superconductors, surprisingly, the resistance becomes zero despite the presence of a large number of impurities and at high temperatures where the lattice points can undergo vigorous thermal vibration. The question that how the charge carriers remained insensitive to such strong scattering centres could not be answered within any classical picture. A microscopic understanding of superconductivity was first provided by Bardeen, Cooper and Schrieffer (BCS) in 1951, only after substantial development of quantum mechanics and quantum field theories – the theories where quantum mechanics is combined with Einstein’s theory of relativity.