India born physicist Dr Amruta Gadge has created the fifth state of matter, while working from her living room, during the coronavirus lockdown. Lab News reported that Dr Gadge, who works in the Quantum Systems and Devices Laboratory at the University of Sussex created a Bose-Einstein Condensate (BEC) which is considered to be the fifth state of matter (where cold atoms comprise together like a single entity). Researchers at the university’s quantum department believe this is the first time someone has created BEC ‘remotely’ in a lab.
Asked what was new about the breakthrough, Gadge said to Telegraph: “The Bose Einstein Condensate has been achieved in the lab in 1995 in the US. And there has been a Nobel Prize (for that work). So, BEC is not new, but you have to understand the effort that is required to achieve this Condensate given that the theory was developed in 1920s and the first time they were able to achieve it in the lab was in 1995…. But now what’s new is that we are able to do it remotely.”
The Mumbai-born physicist stays two miles away from the lab where she works. She reportedly used the technology on her computer to control lasers and radio waves and create the BEC. Now, researchers are saying that this achievement could provide a blueprint for operating quantum tech in space or underwater.
‘Remotely’ for the first time
Peter Krüger, Professor of Experimental Physics at the University of Sussex, said: “We believe this may be the first time that someone has established a BEC remotely in a lab that didn’t have one before. We are all extremely excited that we can continue to conduct our experiments remotely during lockdown, and any possible future lockdowns.
“But there are also wider implications beyond our team. Enhancing the capabilities of remote lab control is relevant for research applications aimed at operating quantum technology in inaccessible environments such as space, underground, in a submarine, or in extreme climates.”
A BEC consists of a cloud of hundreds of thousands of rubidium atoms cooled down to nanokelvin temperatures which is more than a billion times colder than freezing.
Einstein Bose Basis for Research
This research is based on the prediction of Albert Einstein and Indian physicist Satyendra Nath Bose from mid-1920s which stated that quantum mechanics can be used as a force to clump a large number of particles to behave like a single particle, thus the research of fifth matter was introduced.
An at-home breakthrough
When asked Dr Gadge about her complex experiments and calculations, and how she managed to do it from her home, she explained to Lab News, “The research team has been observing lockdown and working from home and so we have not been able to access our labs for weeks. The process has been a lot slower than if I had been in the lab as the experiment is unstable and I’ve had to give 10 to 15 minutes of cooling time between each run.”
She concluded, “This is obviously not as efficient and way more laborious to do manually because I’ve not been able to do systematic scans or fix the instability like I could working in the lab. But we were determined to keep our research going so we have been exploring new ways of running our experiments remotely.”
Amruta first attended St Xavier’s College in Mumbai and then did her masters at the University of Pune. She also worked at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai.
Why the fifth state of matter is important
Researchers claim this is an important feat in modern science as it could help them to operate quantum tech remotely in otherwise inaccessible environments like space or underwater.