We already know from school that there are three basic states of matter: liquid, solid and gas. But they often skip to tell us that these three are not only ones. Our nature is much more complex and it has a lot more variety than what we usually experience in our own everyday life.
Incredible properties may appear when temperature and pressure are being taken to the extreme. The existence of a new state of matter has recently been proven by scientists from ETH Zurich and MIT.
The new state has been described as the first super solid with ultracold quantum gas.
Professor Wolfgang Ketterle, who is one of the senior authors and a crew leader on the MIT paper, explained: “It is counterintuitive to have a material which combines superfluidity and solidity. “If your coffee was superfluid and you stirred it, it would continue to spin around forever.”
Ketterle won a Nobel Prize in 2001 for co-discovering a state that is known as “Bose-Einstein Condensate (BEC)”. At extremely low temperatures, BEC can be achieved.
The quantum gas continued to show superfluidity while the BEC controlled the motions and created crystalline structure by using two lasers. This is known as the “stripe phase” which means that the density of the supersolid changes and it is actually not consistent at all.
The recipe for the supersolid is really simple
One of the authors who took part in the paper named Jun-Ru Li stated: “The recipe for the supersolid is really simple, but it was a big challenge to precisely align all the laser beams and to get everything stable to observe the stripe phase.”
For many decades, researchers have been trying to achieve this new state of matter. This brings us back to 1969 when the famous physicist from Britain – David Thouless, said that superfluids could actually be turned into supersolids. Many scientists have tried to achieve this particular state using helium atoms, but unfortunately, no one could succeed.
Tobias Donner stated that they have finally implemented Thouless’s ideas successfully in their work.
“We didn’t use helium, however, but a Bose-Einstein condensate.”
This state may help us find a better understanding of superfluids and superconductivity.