from the is-it-a-granny-knot? dept.
The very first experimental observations of knots in quantum matter have just been reported in Nature Physics by scientists at Aalto University (Finland) and Amherst College (USA). The scientists created knotted solitary waves, or knot solitons, in the quantum-mechanical field describing a gas of superfluid atoms, also known as a Bose-Einstein condensate.
In contrast to knotted ropes, the created quantum knots exist in a field that assumes a certain direction at every point of space. The field segregates into an infinite number of linked rings, each with its own field direction. The resulting structure is topologically stable as it cannot be separated without breaking the rings. In other words, one cannot untie the knot within the superfluid unless one destroys the state of the quantum matter.
- To make this discovery we exposed a Rubidium condensate to rapid changes of a specifically tailored magnetic field, tying the knot in less than a thousandth of a second. After we learned how to tie the first quantum knot, we have become rather good at it. Thus far, we have tied several hundred such knots, says Professor David Hall, Amherst College.
The scientists tied the knot by squeezing the structure into the condensate from its outskirts. This required them to initialize the quantum field to point in a particular direction, after which they suddenly changed the applied magnetic field to bring an isolated null point, at which the magnetic field vanishes, into the center of the cloud. Then they just waited for less than a millisecond for the magnetic field to do its trick and tie the knot.
The knot only stays tied if you don't look at it.
Tying quantum knots (DOI: 10.1038/nphys3624)