WASHINGTON – In the field of quantum physics, you might call this a droplet in the bucket.
Physicists in Germany and the United States say they have discovered an exotic new type of particle that they call a quantum droplet, or dropleton.
Writing in the journal Nature, they said it behaves a bit like a liquid droplet and described it as a quasi-particle — an amalgamation of smaller types of particles.
The discovery, they added, could be useful in the development of nanotechnology, including the design of optoelectronic devices. These include things like the semiconductor lasers used in Blu-ray disc players.
The microscopic quantum droplet does not dawdle. In the physicists’ experiments, using an ultrafast laser emitting about 100 million pulses per second, the quantum droplet appeared for only about 2.5 billionths of a second.
That does not sound like much, but it is stable enough for research on how light interacts with certain types of matter.
A previously known example of a quasi-particle is the exciton, a pairing of an electron and a “hole” — a place in the material’s energy structure where an electron could be located but is not.
The quantum droplet is made up of roughly five electrons and five holes. It possesses some characteristics of a liquid, such as having ripples, the scientists said.
Quantum physics is a branch of physics that relates to events taking place on the tiniest scale. It is essential in describing the structure of atoms.
Particles are the basic building blocks of matter. They include things like subatomic entities such as electrons, protons, neutrons and quarks. Only rarely are new ones found.
The scientists in Germany worked with a team led by physicist Steven Cundiff at JILA, a joint physics institute of the University of Colorado, Boulder, and the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology.