Jun 19, 2017 04:49 PM EDT
New research in Nature Physics claims scientists have found a way to create "liquid light."
What does this mean exactly? In layman's terms, liquid light is a superfluid that allows light to flow around objects and corners, without friction or viscosity.
How is this different from regular light?
Regular light acts like a wave, traveling in a straight line. This is why our eyes are unable to see around objects and corners. In extreme conditions, however, light can act like a liquid, and flow around objects.
This state of superfluidity, commonly referred to as the fifth state of matter or the Bose-Einstein condensate, allows particles to behave like a single macroscopic wave, combining the attributes of liquids, gases, and solids.
In this study, researchers merged light and matter to create a Bose-Einstein condensate at room temperature.
"The extraordinary observation in our work is that we have demonstrated that superfluidity can also occur at room-temperature, under ambient conditions, using light-matter particles called polaritons," lead researcher Daniele Sanvitto said.
Sounds simple, right?
Not exactly -- in order to create polaritons, some hefty equipment (not to mention mad engineering skills) is needed.
For this experiment, scientists crammed a 130-nanometer-thick layer of organic molecules in between two ultra-reflective mirrors, hitting it with a 35 femtosecond laser pulse.
"In this way, we can combine the properties of photons -- such as their light effective mass and fast velocity -- with strong interactions due to the electrons within the molecules," researcher Stéphane Kéna-Cohen said.
"In a superfluid, this turbulence is suppressed around obstacles, causing the flow to continue on its way unaltered," Kéna-Cohen added.
Sanvitto's team says these results will help lead the way to new studies of quantum hydrodynamics.
"The fact that such an effect is observed under ambient conditions can spark an enormous amount of future work," the research team said in a statement.
"Not only to study fundamental phenomena related to Bose-Einstein condensates, but also to conceive and design future photonic superfluid-based devices where losses are completely suppressed and new unexpected phenomena can be exploited."
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