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Superglass could be new state of matter

Some atoms in glasslike solid could flow with zero friction

By
1:13pm, December 10, 2008

Imagine a fluid that flows both perfectly and not at all. A Zen master might pose such a riddle, but in a new theoretical proof, physicists have shown that such a paradoxical state of matter can indeed exist.

It’s called a superglass — “super” in the same sense as superconductors and superfluids, which is to say that quantum weirdness lurks.

A superglass would look and feel just like a normal glassy solid. As in regular glass, the atoms in a superglass would be arranged randomly — instead of in a crystalline lattice — because a glass is essentially a liquid that has ceased to flow.

But pick up a piece of superglass and rotate it, and some portion of its atoms won’t rotate. Instead, these atoms flow through the rotating solid with zero friction, as in a superfluid. And because there’s no friction, the rest of the atoms in the solid can’t drag those slippery atoms along — just as a superfluid in a s

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