Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

MIT physicists create clouds of impenetrable gases that bounce off each other

14.04.2011
When one cloud of gas meets another, they normally pass right through each other. But now, MIT physicists have created clouds of ultracold gases that bounce off each other like bowling balls, even though they are a million times thinner than air — the first time that such impenetrable gases have been observed.

While this experiment involved clouds of lithium atoms, cooled to near absolute zero, the findings could also help explain the behavior of similar systems such as neutron stars, high-temperature superconductors, and quark-gluon plasma, the hot soup of elementary particles that formed immediately after the Big Bang. A paper describing the work will appear in the April 14 issue of Nature.

The researchers, led by MIT assistant professor of physics Martin Zwierlein, carried out their experiment with an isotope of lithium that belongs to a class of particles called fermions. All building blocks of matter — electrons, protons, neutrons and quarks — are fermions.

Different states of fermionic matter are distinguished by their mobility. For example, electrons can be mobile, as in a metal; immobile, as in an insulator; or flow without resistance, as in a superconductor. However, for many types of material, including high-temperature superconductors, it is not known what circumstances induce fermions to form a given state of matter. This is especially true of materials with strongly interacting fermions, meaning they are more likely to collide with each other (also called scattering).

In this study, the researchers set out to model strongly interacting systems, using lithium gas atoms to stand in for electrons. By tuning the lithium atoms' energy states with a magnetic field, they made the atoms interact with each other as strongly as the laws of nature allow, meaning that they scatter every time they encounter another atom.

To eliminate any effects of heat energy, the researchers cooled the gas to about 50 billionths of one Kelvin, close to absolute zero (-273 degrees Celsius). They used magnetic forces to separate the gas into two clouds, labeled "spin up" and "spin down, then made the clouds collide in a trap formed by laser light. Instead of passing through each other, as gases would normally do, the clouds repelled in dramatic fashion.

"When we saw that these ultra dilute puffs of gas bounce off each other, we were completely amazed," says graduate student Ariel Sommer, lead author of the Nature paper.

The gas clouds did eventually diffuse into each other, but in several cases it took an entire second or more — an extremely long time for events occurring at microscopic scales.

The research, conducted at the MIT-Harvard Center for Ultracold Atoms, is part of a program aimed at using ultracold atoms as easily controllable model systems to study the properties of complex materials, such as high-temperature superconductors and novel magnetic materials that have applications in data storage and improving energy efficiency.

In future work, the researchers plan to confine the lithium gases to two-dimensions, which will allow them to simulate the two-dimensional state in which electrons exist in high-temperature superconductors.

Their work can also be used to model the behavior of other strongly interacting systems, such as high-density neutron stars, which are only a few tens of kilometers in diameter but more massive than our sun.

Another substance that interacts as strongly as the atoms in the ultracold lithium gas clouds created at MIT is quark-gluon plasma, which existed at the universe's formation and has been recreated in particle colliders by colliding atomic nuclei at energies corresponding to a trillion degrees.

Written by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office

Caroline McCall | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.mit.edu

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Gravitational wave kicks monster black hole out of galactic core
24.03.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

nachricht Tracing aromatic molecules in the early universe
23.03.2017 | University of California - Riverside

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA examines Peru's deadly rainfall

24.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

What does congenital Zika syndrome look like?

24.03.2017 | Health and Medicine

Steep rise of the Bernese Alps

24.03.2017 | Earth Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>