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Publication# Superfluidity of polaritons in semiconductor microcavities

Abstract

Superfluidity, the ability of a quantum fluid to flow without friction, is one of the most spectacular phenomena occurring in degenerate gases of interacting bosons. Since its first discovery in liquid helium-4 (refs 1, 2), superfluidity has been observed in quite different systems, and recent experiments with ultracold trapped atoms have explored the subtle links between superfluidity and Bose-Einstein condensation(3-5). In solid-state systems, it has been anticipated that exciton polaritons in semiconductor microcavities should behave as an unusual quantum fluid(6-8), with unique properties stemming from its intrinsically non-equilibrium nature. This has stimulated the quest for an experimental demonstration of superfluidity effects in polariton systems(9-13). Here, we report clear evidence for superfluid motion of polaritons. Superfluidity is investigated in terms of the Landau criterion and manifests itself as the suppression of scattering from defects when the flow velocity is slower than the speed of sound in the fluid. Moreover, a. Cerenkov-like wake pattern is observed when the flow velocity exceeds the speed of sound. The experimental findings are in quantitative agreement with predictions based on a generalized Gross-Pitaevskii theory(12,13), and establish microcavity polaritons as a system for exploring the rich physics of non-equilibrium quantum fluids.

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Superfluid helium-4

Superfluid helium-4 is the superfluid form of helium-4, an isotope of the element helium. A superfluid is a state of matter in which matter behaves like a fluid with zero viscosity. The substance, which looks like a normal liquid, flows without friction past any surface, which allows it to continue to circulate over obstructions and through pores in containers which hold it, subject only to its own inertia. The formation of the superfluid is known to be related to the formation of a Bose–Einstein condensate.

Fluid dynamics

In physics, physical chemistry and engineering, fluid dynamics is a subdiscipline of fluid mechanics that describes the flow of fluids—liquids and gases. It has several subdisciplines, including aerodynamics (the study of air and other gases in motion) and hydrodynamics (the study of liquids in motion). Fluid dynamics has a wide range of applications, including calculating forces and moments on aircraft, determining the mass flow rate of petroleum through pipelines, predicting weather patterns, understanding nebulae in interstellar space and modelling fission weapon detonation.

Potential flow

In fluid dynamics, potential flow (or ideal flow) describes the velocity field as the gradient of a scalar function: the velocity potential. As a result, a potential flow is characterized by an irrotational velocity field, which is a valid approximation for several applications. The irrotationality of a potential flow is due to the curl of the gradient of a scalar always being equal to zero. In the case of an incompressible flow the velocity potential satisfies Laplace's equation, and potential theory is applicable.

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