Scientists create new state of matter
28 February 2018
Scientists claim to have created a new substance called the Rydberg polaron, which is made by forcing an electron far outside its normal range and jamming other nuclei into the space that is left.
The feat is accomplished by cooling strontium atoms near absolute zero, then exciting its electrons so that they orbit further out. Other nuclei will naturally jam themselves into the electron cloud, creating a weird franken-atom with multiple cores, but with the electron probability distribution cloud wrapped around all of them.
The researchers were able to create it by starting with a type of matter - the Bose-Einstein condensate, which occurs near absolute zero. By cooling a super low-density gas all the way down, its particles start occupying the lowest energy state they can, which causes them to act like macroscopic quantum objects.
The researchers then fired a laser to boost the energy of one of the electrons, allowing the range of places, it could found to expand larger and larger, until it held enough ''empty'' space, for other atoms to just… slip inside.
This works, partly due the electron not being a single particle, but a probability distribution of where you might be able to find it.
This new exotic state of matter, is known as Rydberg's polarons and is formed at ultra-cold temperatures, when an electron orbits its nucleus at a distance so great that other atoms eventually bind within the orbit.
Thus when electrons move too far away, it may happen that other atoms can get trapped inside the orbit of the last electron, resulting in a new state of matter.
The idea, theorised by researchers from the University of Vienna in Austria, and the University of Havard in the US, has been confirmed by US researchers from Rice University.