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Study Highlights How Structures in Particle Physics Function in the Universe

Recent experiments have unveiled an intriguing aspect of decaying monopoles: a realm where the very foundations of particle physics undergo a remarkable transformation.

New Study Helps Gain Insights into How Structures in Particle Physics Function in the Universe

Researchers have just observed an Alice ring in nature for the first time. Image Credit: Heikka Valja/Aalto University

Named the so-called “Alice ring” after Lewis Carroll’s world-renowned stories in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the look of this object confines a decades-old theory on how monopoles decay. Particularly, they tend to decay into a ring-like vortex, where any other monopoles passing via its center have been flipped into their opposite magnetic charges.

The study's findings mark the latest breakthrough in a string of work that has covered the collaborative careers of Aalto University Professor Mikko Möttönen and Amherst College Professor David Hall.

The study was reported in Nature Communications on August 29, 2023.

This was the first time our collaboration was able to create Alice rings in nature, which was a monumental achievement.

Mikko Möttönen, Professor, Aalto University

This fundamental research opens new doors into understanding how these structures and their analogs in particle physics function in the universe,” added Hall.

The persistent relationship, titled the Monopole Collaboration, initially showed the presence of a quantum analog of the magnetic monopole in 2014. It was considered a separate quantum monopole in 2015 and ultimately noted one decay into the other in 2017.

In the arena of quantum physics, monopoles remain an elusive concept. As the name denotes, monopoles are known to be the solitary counterpart of dipoles, which carry a negative charge at the south and a positive charge at their north pole. In opposition, a monopole carries just a positive or negative charge.

While the idea sounds simple, identifying a true monopole has proven to be a career-specifying task.

In this context, the study explains how the Monopole Collaboration has done it: they handled a gas of rubidium atoms made in a nonmagnetic state next to absolute zero temperature. While being subjected to extreme conditions, they could make a monopole by steering a zero point of a three-dimensional magnetic field into the quantum gas.

Journal Reference:

Blinova, A., et al. (2023) Observation of an Alice ring in a Bose–Einstein condensate. Nature Communications.

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