Scientists Have Discovered a Brand New State of Matter Called ‘Liquid Glass’
Researchers have managed to achieve long-term stabilization of the latent state of matter, called supercrystal, by «disorders» substances and exposure to ultrashort laser pulses.
Several US universities and research laboratories were looking for and studying new phases of matter with unusual properties that do not occur naturally. To do this, they removed matter from the ground state, increasing the energy of electrons using ultrashort laser pulses (100 femtoseconds) with a length of 400 nm. Scientists then watched the process of returning to the comfort phase to record unusual forms of polar, magnetic and electronic states..
The original challenge was to find a way to maintain an intermediate state of matter that can only exist for a tiny fraction of a second. However, the researchers found that one of these hidden states, called a supercrystal, can be stabilized almost forever..
To do this, the team used a three-dimensional structure consisting of monoatomic layers of lead titanate and strontium titanate stacked alternately on top of each other. Lead titanate is ferroelectric, while strontium titanate is not. This inconsistency forced the electric polarization vectors to follow an unnatural path, bending back to themselves, creating vortices.
These layers were grown on top of a substrate whose crystals had an intermediate size compared to crystals of two folded materials. This provided a second level of disorder as the strontium titanate layer tried to stretch to fit the crystal structure of the substrate and the lead titanate had to shrink. This brought the entire system into a delicate but unstable state with several phases randomly distributed throughout the volume..
At this moment, the researchers sent a laser pulse to the material, which introduced additional electrical energy into the system, transforming it into a new state of matter – supercrystal. Its feature is the huge size of the crystal lattice, which is much larger than that of any inorganic crystal, and millions of times larger than that of the two starting materials..
This state of matter is maintained independently and under room temperature conditions can potentially persist forever (at least a year, during which the research took place). However, the substance will return to its original state when heated above 176 ºC, and recovery will require repeated exposure to laser pulses. Moreover, only ultrashort beams with a certain minimum threshold energy value are suitable.
Scientists used high-resolution X-ray diffraction in combination with imaging at the nanoscale level to observe the development of irreversible structural reordering..
According to the researchers, the discovery will allow a better study of the structure of the supercrystal and the features of the transition of matter to a disordered state. They hope that this will also help artificially create new types of nanomaterials that cannot be made using traditional methods..
Recall that recently physicists have found evidence that sound waves can transfer mass.
text: Ilya Bauer, photo: L-Q Chen Group, Penn State