That effect could aid in the development of quantum computing, which uses a "qubit" based on the quantum state of an atomic particle to represent each bit of information, according to Lee. Impurities in the material around a qubit particle can cause it to change its quantum state unexpectedly, he said.
"There are issues that need to be improved in these qubits so you can have a quantum state that lasts a very long time without, essentially, decaying," Lee said. "This new type of state, with long-range entanglement, is very robust, or protected, against that," Lee said.
In addition to helping to reliably store data and do calculations in quantum computing, long-range entanglement might aid in communication technology, according to Lee. A QSL material might also be turned into a superconductor for efficient electrical transmission over power lines, Lee said.
It's too soon to say how the challenges of building pure herbertsmithite crystals or cooling them down might translate into making quantum storage or other technologies.
"Once we understand a lot more of the basic physics, there could be some good ideas for the engineering aspects, but we're still very early into this research," Lee said. "It's many, many years away from becoming something that's in a technology that a consumer would use."