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DWC Profile Investigator Blair Blakie

Ultra-cold gas droplets get famous

Blair BlakieDWC theoretical physicist, Blair Blaikie has discovered a way to make a droplet of gas that holds itself together even when the container holding it is removed. In ordinary circumstances gas would simply disperse, like smoke or exhaust fumes. This completely new phenomenon has generated excitement across the international community. Within a couple of months of Blair publishing his theory, one of the world’s top experimental groups at Stuttgart succeeded in creating a droplet in the lab and published their results in Nature. This was November last year. Since then Blair has been invited to work with a leading experimental group in Innsbruck and another internationally renowned group in Boulder Colorado to explore these droplets further.

The Stuttgart droplets are made out of dysprosium, the most magnetic atom in existence. When cooled to temperatures just above absolute zero, quantum forces come out to play. If you get the conditions just right the atoms spontaneously form into a droplet. Each droplet contains a couple of thousand atoms and is the result of magnetic and quantum properties.

It is still at the very early exploring stage but in the future these tiny gas droplets could be used to create sensors for detecting minute changes in electric, magnetic and gravitational fields or as nano-labs for doing extremely precise chemical reactions. They could enable physicists to test Einstein’s law of general relativity or be encoded with data and used to transfer quantum information between components within a quantum computer.