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'Super Photons' Blob State Matter

Physicists have created super photons by cooling photons of light into a blob state - a Bose-Einstein condensate. Regular Bose-Einstein condensates are created when atoms are cooled to absolute zero; the atoms collapse into the lowest quantum state, producing a superfluid. Satyendra Nath Bose and Albert Einstein worked out the details in the 1920's.

This remarkable experiment, carried out by physicists Jan Klärs, Julian Schmitt, Frank Vewinger and Martin Weitz of the University of Bonn in Germany, demonstrates once again the quantum nature of matter. In this case, photons of light act like particles in this extreme state.


("Super-photon" illustration; created when physicists
turned photons of light into a Bose-Einstein condensate
)

"Whether a temperature is cold enough to start the condensation depends on the density of the particles," Klärs wrote in an e-mail to LiveScience. "Ultra-cold atomic gases are very dilute and they therefore have very low condensation temperatures. Our photon gas has a billion times higher density and we can achieve the condensation already at room temperature."

John W. Campbell wrote about a similar idea in his 1930 classic The Black Star Passes; he called it Lux:

“Either that,” returned Arcot, “or proof of an amazing degree of technological advancement. It's only a guess, of course—but I have an idea where this kind of matter exists in the solar system. I think you have already seen it—in the gaseous state. You remember, of course, that the Kaxorians had great reservoirs for storing light-energy in a bound state in their giant planes. They had bound light, light held by the gravitational attraction for itself, after condensing it in their apparatus, but they had what amounted to a gas—gaseous light. Now suppose that someone makes a light condenser even more powerful than the one the Kaxorians used, a condenser that forces the light so close to itself, increases its density, till the photons hold each other permanently, and the substance becomes solid. It will be matter, matter made of light—light matter—and let us call it a metal. You know that ordinary matter is electricity matter, and electricity matter metals conduct electricity readily. Now why shouldn't our 'light matter' metal conduct light? It would be a wonderful substance for windows.”

Via LiveScience; thanks to Winchell Chung (aka ) for submitting the tip.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 11/25/2010)

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