Feeds

MIT boffins make hot superfluid

For a specified value of 'hot'

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

Scientists at MIT have created a new kind of matter: a gas of atoms that exhibits superfluidity at high temperatures. Or at least, what passes for high temperatures among researchers at the MIT Harvard Center for Ultracold atoms.

A superfluid gas flows without resistance, and has some very odd properties. One of these is that it will only rotate when it is punctuated by vortices, similar to miniature tornados, making it easy to distinguish from a normal gas.

The research team spent a year trying to cajole their gas sample into rotating. First, they had to cool their sample to close to absolute zero. This is done by laser and evapourative cooling, which we are willing to bet is easier to type than to do. Next, they had to trap the gas in the focus of an infrared laser beam. The electric and magnetic fields of the beam are what hold the atoms in place.

The last step is to get the gas to rotate by spinning a green laser beam around it, a process graduate student Martin Zwierlein described as being "like sanding the bumps off of a wheel to make it perfectly round".

The team finally spotted the vortices when the gas was cooled to 50 billionths of a degree Kelvin.

Hold on, we hear you ask, didn't they say high temperature superfluidity? Well, yes they did, and we agree that 50 billionths of a degree Kelvin sounds pretty chilly to us.

Fortunately, a Nobel laureate was able to clarify the situation: "It may sound strange to call superfluidity at 50 nanokelvin high-temperature superfluidity, but what matters is the temperature normalized by the density of the particles," said Wolfgang Ketterle, head of the MIT research Group.

Using this rather dodgy sounding logic,( but hey, if you can't trust a Nobel laureate, who can you trust?), it seems the team is allowed to scale their results up from the very high densities of fermionic atoms to the more spaced-out nature of mere solids. Once they do this, the numbers show that the superfluidity happened a really quite high temperatures after all. Higher, even, than room temperature.

Dan Kleppner, director of the MIT-Harvard Center for Ultracold Atoms, said, "This is not a smoking gun for superfluidity. This is a cannon."

The team's work is published in today's (23 June) issue of Nature. ®

Related stories

Scientists spot signal from solar-sail craft
Doctor Who better than Star Trek - official
Swiss neurologists to model the brain

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
LOHAN tunes into ultra long range radio
And verily, Vultures shall speak status unto distant receivers
NASA to reformat Opportunity rover's memory from 125 million miles away
Interplanetary admins will back up data and get to work
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
EOS, Lockheed to track space junk from Oz
WA facility gets laser-eyes out of the fog
Volcanic eruption in Iceland triggers CODE RED aviation warning
Lava-spitting Bárðarbunga prompts action from Met Office
LOHAN Kickstarter push breaks TWELVE THOUSAND POUNDS
That's right, folks, you've stumped up OVER 9,000 beer tokens - and counting
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.