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Evidence mounts for an exotic supersolid

Rubidium atoms simultaneously act like a solid and a superfluid

3:06pm, March 18, 2009

PITTSBURGH — Hallmarks of an exotic state of matter called a supersolid have been spotted in a gas of ultracold rubidium atoms. In the same piece of matter, researchers found signs of the seemingly disparate properties of both solidity and superfluidity, the frictionless flow of atoms.

Reporting March 18 at a meeting of the American Physical Society, Dan Stamper-Kurn described two telltale signs that suggest this weird state of matter may indeed be a supersolid. The new matter is “a gas, which is superfluid, and also shares properties of a solid,” said Stamper-Kurn, of the University of California, Berkeley. If confirmed, a rubidium supersolid could help scientists better understand the properties of this strange state of matter.

“What we’ve seen is an ability to describe a peculiar state of nature,” comments Paul Grant, a former visiting scholar at Stanford University and IBM research staff member emeritus. If the researchers are

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