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News

Possible new form of Supersolid matter

National Science Foundation : 14 January, 2004  (Company News)
Researchers at the Pennsylvania State University are announcing the possible discovery of an entirely new phase of matter: an ultra-cold, 'supersolid' form of helium-4.
Researchers at the Pennsylvania State University are announcing the possible discovery of an entirely new phase of matter: an ultra-cold, 'supersolid' form of helium-4.

Writing in the 15 January 2004 issue of the journal Nature, Penn State physicist Moses H. W. Chan and his graduate student, Eun-Seong Kim, explain that their material is a solid in the sense that all its helium-4 atoms are frozen into a rigid crystal lattice, much like the atoms and molecules in a normal solid such as ice. The difference is that 'frozen,' in this case, doesn't mean 'stationary.' Because helium-4 lattice is so very cold, less than one tenth of a degree above absolute zero, the laws of quantum uncertainty take over. In effect, the helium atoms start to behave as if they were both solid and fluid-at the same time. Under the right circumstances, in fact, some fraction of the helium atoms can begin to move through the lattice like a substance known as a 'superfluid': a liquid that moves with no friction whatsoever. Thus the name 'supersolid.'

Chan and Kim's work, which was funded by the National Science Foundation, is described in a Penn State press release posted on the EurekAlert site. That site has an embargo of 1 pm Eastern time, 14 January 2004. After that time, the release will also be available at http://www.science.psu.edu/alert/Chan1-2004.htm

In addition, NSF has prepared an animation that illustrates the basics of Chan and Kim's experimental setup, and the supersolid behavior they believe they have detected.
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