New Breakthrough Allows Scientists to Create “Liquid Light” with Ease

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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.

Light superfluid in a model.

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…

New Process Will Allow You to 3D Print Glass on Demand

The surge in affordable 3D printing in recent years has allowed hobbyists to craft everything from customized toys to hair to prosthetic duck feet, with the only limit being the creator’s imagination. Now, researchers in Germany are close to achieving a technique that could revolutionize both 3D applications and glassmaking by giving us the power to 3D print glass.

In a study published in Nature this week, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT) investigator Dr. Bastian Rapp presented a way of manufacturing a “liquid glass” that can be manipulated with 3D printing software and then heated until it’s a useful solid. (Normal glass consists of melted sand made from sheets in molten tin vats.) By making the glass dispensable through 3D printing nozzles, Rapp believes we’ll soon be able to 3D print glass that’s of sufficient quality for lenses, mirrors, and even drinking cups.

Previous attempts to conceive of a new way of glass production via 3D printers haven’t resulted in glass smooth enough for…

New tech harvests drinking water from (relatively) dry air using only sunlight

water from air prototype converter
WATER FROM AIR This prototype device captures water from air. Then, when exposed to sunlight, the black-painted layer (top) heats up and releases captured moisture as vapor into a container. A condenser then cools the vapor, converting the water to liquid form.

A new device the size of a coffee mug can generate drinkable water from desert air using nothing but sunlight.

“With this device, you can harvest the equivalent of a Coke can’s worth of water in an hour,” says cocreator Omar Yaghi, a chemist at the University of California, Berkeley. “That’s about how much water a person needs to survive in the desert.”

Though that may not sound like much, its designers say the current device is just a prototype. But the technology could be scaled up to supply fresh water to some of the most parched and remote regions of the globe, such as the Middle East and North Africa, they say.

Previous attempts at low-energy water collection struggled to function below 50 percent relative humidity (roughly the average afternoon humidity of Augusta, Ga.). Thanks to a special material, the new device pulled water from air with as low as 20 percent relative humidity, Yaghi and colleagues report online April 13 in Science. That’s like conjuring water in Las Vegas, where the average afternoon relative humidity is 21 percent.

Drinking water supplies can’t keep up with the rising demands of a growing human population, and shifts in rainfall caused by climate…