Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Superconducting Rings and Early Development of the Universe

I'll sound like a broken record (how many would know that expression anymore?) but I'll say it again that condensed matter physics can be as "fundamental" as any area of physics. I've said this many times previously, and now we have another clear example of that.

This article reviews a recent paper that appeared in PRL. It appears that one can look at the superconducting phase transition in metal rings and gain quite an insight into the rapid cooling of our early universe.

Watching a metal transform into a superconductor, it may not be obvious that this transition provides access to some of the same physics that governed the cooling of the universe following the Big Bang. Yet at the root of both of these phenomena—albeit at astronomically different energy scales—is the question of how defects form in a continuous phase transition. In a paper appearing in Physical Review B [1], Roberto Monaco at the Universit√† di Salerno in Italy, Jesper Mygind at the Technical University of Denmark, Ray Rivers at Imperial College London, UK, and Valery Koshelets at the Russian Academy of Science in Moscow have taken ideas about the early development of the universe and applied them to the dynamics of the superconducting phase transition in metal rings. In doing so, they introduce an elegant way to measure the tiny flux quanta that are trapped at the centers of these rings, and develop a new understanding of how the cooling process works in mesoscopic systems.

I'm a sucker for such a paper. :)


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