A long-sought new form of matter has been created for the first time. The matter, called a fermionic condensate, consists of atoms that are ordinarily forbidden to exist in the same quantum state but have been tricked into it by linking into pairs.
It occupies the middle ground between loosely linked particles that form superconductors and tightly bound ones in Bose-Einstein condensates, another exotic form of matter produced fleetingly since 1995. The creation of the new condensate is considered the crucial first step toward producing superconductors that work at room temperatures.
Superconductors have a lot of promise for delivering and managing electric power with fewer losses than standard copper wire. The current (no pun intended) challenge is the liquid nitrogen sheath required to keep the superconductor wires and transformers sufficiently cold. This discovery could make that sheath unnecessary.
As Deborah Jin, one of the researchers who made the discovery, said in this CNN interview,
“If you had a superconductor you could transmit electricity with no losses,” Jin said. “Right now something like 10 percent of all electricity we produce in the United States is lost. It heats up wires. It doesn’t do anybody any good.” …
Jin stressed her team worked with a supercooled gas, which provides little opportunity for everyday application. But the way the potassium atoms acted suggested there should be a way to translate the behavior into a room-temperature solid.
“Our atoms are more strongly attracted to one another than in normal superconductors,” she said.