By Indraneel Ghosh
The existence of objects with negative mass is one of the most mind-bending concepts in physics. Although they exist in theory, we have not found enough practical evidence so far. Physicists have been trying to find the answer to this question ever since Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity presented the outrageous proposition. There has been a ton of theoretical research that suggests that such a particle can exist. This theoretical concept in physics may soon be confirmed as reality. The scientists at the University of Rochester have stated that they have designed a device that can create particles with negative mass. Further, the particle generated by the device has properties of both light and matter. This follows the recent report of the creation of a fluid with negative mass by the physicists at the Washington State University.
Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity predicted the existence of positive mass and the black hole. The existence of the Black Hole was first predicted by the Schwarzschild solution. The solution described the nature of space around a point like positive mass. This point mass is known as the black hole. The theory of General Relativity further predicts the existence of negative mass. However, scientists have not found out any solid evidence to back this proposition. Such a particle has not been created or found so far.
Further research suggested that if positive and negative matter exists in the universe, they would form the plasma. This is one of the most important principles that drive the method suggested by the scientists at University of Rochester. One of the implications of this discovery would be the production of laser light with a very small amount of energy.
The principle governing the device
The device is based on the working principle of lasers. In traditional lasers, the light undergoes repeated reflections between a pair of mirrors. The space confining the light is called the optical microcavity. In this new device, the team placed a very thin semiconductor (equal to the thickness of the order of atoms) made up of molybdenum diselenide in the microcavity. The excitons in the semiconductor are combined with photons in this confined region. The exciton is a quasi-particle. It behaves like a combination of an electron and a gap called the electron-hole. They are formed when light interacts with ‘certain materials’. In the given case, the ‘material’ is molybdenum diselenide. The exciton-photon interaction led to the formation new particles called ‘polaritons’. Polaritons are particles which have the mythical negative mass property. Further, the device allows scientists to probe the interactions between these polaritons and study their properties further.
Implications of the discovery
The behaviour of these negative mass particles is an interesting topic. That being said, it also raises a lot of tough questions. The negative mass particles have the mind-boggling property of moving towards the direction in which a force is applied. The discovery of such particles would help us verify the theoretical work done by physicists on negative mass particles. The use of negative and positive particle interaction could make several existing processes more energy efficient.
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