Anyone who’s taken any sort of physics knows that light can travel as photons or particles as well as waves. It may be hard to imagine, but under certain conditions, light can actually be turned into another form, a superfluid. In liquid form, instead of halting at an object and illuminating it, light flows around objects, just like water. This state is sometimes called the fifth state of matter or more formally, the Bose-Einstein condensate.
Light as superfluid has many strange and useful properties. For instance, it has no bends or waves, and experiences no friction or viscosity. As a result, this breakthrough could revolutionize any technology based on the transfer of light or electricity, and perhaps even launch the next generation of superconductors. Liquid light has been exceptionally rare up until now. It has only been seen under extreme conditions, in sealed lab chambers set to a temperature a few degrees above absolute zero.
Before, due to the need of such extreme conditions, its use wasn’t practical. Not only that, light would only exist in that form for a few fractions of a second. In this study, miraculously, scientists were able to achieve the same state at room temperature over a sustained period. The results were published in the journal Nature Physics.
Top: regular light, in waves. Bottom: light as a superfluid. École Polytechnique de Montreal.
An international team of researchers worked on the project. They hailed from the…