Skip to main content
Cornell University
LASSP -  Laboratory of Atomic and Solid State Physics

Cornell Laboratory for Atomic and Solid State Physics

Erich Mueller and Shovan Dutta challenge generally accepted notion on solitons

Solitary waves – known as solitons – appear in many forms. Perhaps the most recognizable is the tsunami, which forms following a disruption on the ocean floor and can travel, unabated, at high speeds for hundreds of miles.

By definition, a soliton retains its shape while propagating at a constant velocity. But what happens when two, or more, solitons interact? The general consensus from past studies is that solitons are essentially unchanged by such an interaction and pass through one another, but physics professor Erich Mueller and graduate student Shovan Dutta have challenged that notion in a report just published in Physical Review Letters.

Their paper, “Collective Modes of a Soliton Train in a Fermi Superfluid,” was published June 29. Both men work in Cornell’s Laboratory of Atomic and Solid State Physics.

The team found something drastically different for solitons interacting in a superfluid, which forms when a gas of atoms is cooled to near absolute zero. Not only do the solitons affect one another, but they can even collide and destroy each other.

Read More