Scientists have described an odd new state of matter that doesn’t seem to conform to normal rules.
As reported by Leah Crane over at New Scientist, the state is made from “liquid light” and is classed as being something between a solid and a superfluid. The latter is a fluid that flows with zero friction, often at temperatures near absolute zero – or -273.15°C (-459.67°F)
The findings describing this new state of matter were published in Nature Communications, conducted by scientists from University College London and the University of St Andrews.
The truly weird thing about it is that the fluid is completely rigid, dubbed a rigid state, meaning it can’t be pushed or stirred. It’s made of polaritons, which are hybrid particles composed “of a photon strongly coupled to an electric dipole,” notes Nature.
“If you have some water in a pipe and you start pushing it, it will flow a little faster,” Marzena Szymańska of University College London, who led the study, told New Scientist. “Whereas this fluid is so rigid that even pushing it will not change its velocity.”
The team made the fluid by trapping light in another material, using a laser to replace photons that leaked out of the experiment. And this seemed to give the fluid its unique properties.
This isn’t the only recent matter news. In October, Science Magazine reported how researchers had created a weird state of matter in space for the first time, called a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC). They did this in NASA’s Cold Atom Laboratory on the International Space Station (ISS).
In April this year, scientists said they had created a state of matter that was more quantum than classical, called Shakti artificial spin ice. Its disordered structure was representative of something only normally seen in quantum conditions.
And in February this year, scientists created a Bose-Einstein condensate on Earth using strontium atoms. By essentially putting atoms inside other atoms, they were able to create an exotic state of matter known as a Rydberg polaron.
There are plenty of unanswered questions about this latest state of matter though, not least what it could be used for. Still, it’s certainly interesting for all you matter fans out there.
(H/T: New Scientist)