Scientists Created "Giant Quantum Tornados" Resembling Black Holes

It takes a bit of light and a bit of matter to create these vortices.
Loukia Papadopoulos
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You may not know it but you have likely witnessed a vortex system. For instance, when water runs down in the sink twirling and twisting in the process. You likely have also felt a vortex system when flying in the air on an airplane.

Now, researchers from Skoltech and their colleagues from the UK have managed to create a stable giant vortex in interacting polariton condensates that could lead to new possibilities in creating uniquely structured coherent light sources and exploring many-body physics under extreme conditions. 

"The formation of stable clockwise, or anticlockwise, polariton currents along the perimeter of our polygons can be thought of as a result of geometric frustration between the condensates. The condensates interact like oscillators that want to be in antiphase with each other. But an odd-numbered polygon cannot satisfy this phase relation because of its rotational symmetry, and therefore the polaritons settle for the next-best thing, which is a rotating current," first author Tamsin Cookson explained in a statement.

A nice demonstration

"This is a very nice demonstration of how polaritons can provide a very flexible sandbox to probe some of the more complex phenomena of nature. What we show here is a system that shares a lot of characteristics with a black hole, which still emitting, a white hole if you wish!" Skoltech Professor Pavlos Lagoudakis added.

The researchers focused their attention in particular on vortices created by polaritons — odd hybrid quantum particles that are half-light (photon) and half-matter (electrons). They were seeking to generate vortices in these polariton fluids with high values of angular momentum.

In other words, they were looking for vortices that rotate very fast. These vortices, also known as giant vortices, are very hard to create. 

The researchers had been working with interacting polariton condensates and realized that when multiple condensates were arranged into a regular polygon with an odd number of vertices (a triangle, pentagon, heptagon, and so on) the ground state of the whole system could correspond to a particle current along the polygon edge. By going from one polygon to another, the researchers discovered that the current rotated faster and faster, forming a giant vortex of varying angular momentum.

The research was published in the journal Nature Communications.


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