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Ultra-cold mini twisters

A team of quantum physicists led by three-time ERC laureate Francesca Ferlaino has established a new method to observe vortices in dipolar quantum gases. These quantum vortices are considered a strong indication of superfluidity, the frictionless flow of a quantum gas, and have now been experimentally detected for the first time in dipolar gases at the University of Innsbruck.

In the quantum world many identical vortices are being formed simultaneously. In many quantum gases, such quantized vortices have already been demonstrated. “This is interesting because such vortices are a clear indication of the frictionless flow of a quantum gas - the so-called superfluidity,” says Francesca Ferlaino of the Department of Experimental Physics at the University of Innsbruck and the Institute of Quantum Optics and Quantum Information at the Austrian Academy of Sciences.

Ferlaino and her team are researching quantum gases made of strongly magnetic elements. For such dipolar quantum gases, in which atoms strongly interact with each other, quantum vortices have not been demonstrated so far. Scientists have now developed a new method: “We use the directionality of our quantum gas of dysprosium, whose atoms behave like many small magnets, to stir the gas,” explains Manfred Mark of Francesca Ferlaino's team. In the future, the new method should be used to study superfluidity in supersolid states in which quantum matter is simultaneously solid and liquid.

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