Creating the 5th State of Matter During Quarantine


Kosei Dohi, STEM Writer

As a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, many scientists have postponed and even canceled ongoing and future scientific experiments. Scientists from various fields have been affected by the pandemic since they are unable to carry out experiments without the use of laboratory equipment. This would normally be considered an impossible obstacle to pass through, but Dr. Amruta Gadge from the University of Sussex has successfully overcome the odds. Gadge, from her very own living room, remotely created a Bose-Einstein Condensate—the 5th state of matter.

Dr. Gadge is currently a part of the Quantum Systems and Device Laboratory team at the University of Sussex who is researching quantum gases on atom chips. When quarantine was first announced, researchers of the Quantum Systems and Device Laboratory were unable to access the necessary equipment to run experiments. Despite this, the team was determined to continue research at home. Gadge had spent time adjusting the equipment used to create the Bose-Einstein Condensate prior to lockdown. Afterwards, Gadge precisely calculated the necessary calibrations to set up the experiment remotely at home and by also accessing the laboratories’ computers remotely. 

The Bose-Einstein Condensate (BEC) is the fifth state of matter, following solid, liquid, gas, and plasma. BEC consists of many rubidium atoms that are cooled almost a billion times cooler than freezing point. In order to create BEC, computer-controlled magnets, lasers, and circuits are used to cool the atoms, and until now no one has fully calibrated the computers remotely to successfully create BEC. Despite being several minutes slower in comparison to an on-site run, this experiment ultimately shows promising directions of remotely controlling quantum technology in places such as space and under water. 

The current coronavirus pandemic has hindered many of us in doing all kinds of activities. The lesson we can learn from Gadge and the Quantum Systems and Device Laboratory team is that despite these difficult times, we can make the most out of it and continue to work hard and pursue our passions.