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Editor's take: Scientists are learning more about quantum mechanics every day. Despite all the advancements that have been made to date, it's hard not to feel like we've just barely scratched the surface of a very bizarre field that might not be fully understood for decades to come.
A team of Austrian researchers have managed to create a two-dimensional supersolid for the first time.
As Science Alert explains, scientists have been working toward this eventuality for more than 50 years. The first major breakthrough occurred a few years ago when researchers successfully created a string of droplets along one dimension, but now they’ve done it in two dimensions.
But what exactly is a supersolid, you ask? Good question.
Supersolids are a quantum state of matter with atoms arranged in the order of a solid. What makes them mind-bending is that they can also flow without any friction, like a superfluid. Bruno Laburthe-Tolra, a physicist with the Laser Physics Laboratory in Paris, likens a supersolid to an ice cube immersed in liquid water, with frictionless flow of the water through the cube.
“The particles in a supersolid state are both locked into a rigid solid structure, but also delocalized at the same time, which allows them to behave like a wave and flow freely without friction throughout the solid.” - Science Alert
With two dimensions now at their disposal, scientists hope to learn a lot more about this bizarre state of matter. “For example, in a two-dimensional supersolid system, one can study how vortices form in the hole between several adjacent droplets,” said Matthew Norcia, a physicist involved with the breakthrough.
The team’s paper on the matter, “Two-dimensional supersolidity in a dipolar quantum gas,” has been published in Nature.
Image credit IQOQI Innsbruck/Harald Ritsch