A super-cold collection of molecules behaving in perfect unison has been created for the first time from a sea of "fermion" atoms by researchers at JILA, a joint institute of the Department of Commerces National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU-Boulder).
False color images of the molecular Bose-Einstein condensate forming.
Left—A cloud of gaseous fermionic potassium cooled to 250 nanoKelvin and paired into bosonic molecules. Right—The same experiment starting at 90 nanoKelvin where the molecules collapse into a Bose-Einstein condensate.
In both images higher areas indicate a greater density of atoms.
Fermions are a class of particles that are inherently difficult to coax into a uniform quantum state. The ability to meld fermions into this state---a soup of particles that acts like one giant, super molecule---may lead to better understanding of superconductivity, in which electricity flows through certain metals with no resistance.
The work was described in a paper posted November 7 on the informal physics archival Web site at http://arxiv.org/ and will be published online by the journal Nature on November 26. Researchers Deborah S. Jin of NIST and Markus Greiner and Cindy A. Regal of CU-Boulder reported that they created a Bose-Einstein condensate (BEC) of weakly bound molecules starting with a gas of fermionic potassium atoms cooled to 150 nanoKelvin above absolute zero (about minus 273 degrees Celsius or minus 459 degrees Fahrenheit).
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