Light Can Behave Like A Liquid And Can Bend Around Objects

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According to a recent discovery by scientists, under certain conditions, light behaves like a frictionless liquid, which could improve devices such as lasers and solar panels.

While it has been understood for centuries that light behaves like a wave, recent years have led to the discovery that it can also behave like a liquid. Conventional knowledge states that light expands out in a waveform until being absorbed or reflected by objects, which are, in turn, illuminated.

New research has revealed that light can flow around an object and reconstitute itself on the other side –under certain circumstances. This flowing of light around an object was once thought only to occur at extremely low temperatures — nearing absolute zero. New research, published June 5, 2017, in the journal Nature Physics reveals something fascinating. Light can behave in a “super liquid” state and exhibit “frictionless flow” — bending around an object with no ripples or swirls at room temperature and ambient atmospheric pressure.

Scientists of CNR Nanotec of Leece, Italy, Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal in Canada, Imperial College London, Universita del Salento in Italy and Aalto University in Finland have produced this effect by making effectively a light-matter hybrid fluid.

They sandwiched a thin layer of organic molecules between two ultra-reflective mirrors — combined the properties of photons with the strong interactions of electrons for this experiment. Stephane Kena-Cohen of Ecole Polytechnique does Montreal explained that under normal conditions a fluid would experience turbulence around an object. She goes on to state that this turbulence ceases to be in a superfluid — sometimes referred to as the fifth state of matter (Bose-Einstein condensate).

In a superfluid, particles behave like one single macroscopic wave. The particles all oscillate at the same frequency and combine the attributes of liquids solids and gases. By using light-matter particles called “polaritons”, researchers have been able to create a state of superfluidity at room temperature under ambient atmospheric conditions.

Practical effects of this discovery may apply to superconductive materials. Applying this discovery of superfluidity at room temperature could lead to the creation of superconductive materials needed to efficiently move electricity with virtually no resistance. This breakthrough could lead to easier handling and transfer of electricity, as, unlike traditional materials, these superconducting materials would not need to be radically cooled.

There would be no need for liquid nitrogen or any other cooling system or chemical. Harnessing this room temperature superfluidity could lead to major improvements in photonic devices such as lasers, LEDs, solar panels and photovoltaic cells. While this research is still in its infancy, the possibilities for future work into harnessing superfluid-based photonic devices appear boundless.

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