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Digital Transformation hits material science

Is it solid or liquid or both? This is a drawing of an imaginary object built with a material that can be both solid and liquid. It turns out that reality may match imagination… Image credit: iStock/Getty Images Plus

When I was young (that was long long time ago) materials existed in four states: gaseous, liquid, solid and plasma (with this latter reserved for physics buff). It turns out that materials may also exist in a state that is both solid and liquid.

Andreas Hermann, at the University of Edinburgh school of physics and astronomy, led a group of physicists to the discovery of this amazing state, where layers of strongly connected atoms (solid) are intertwined with layers of freely roaming atoms (liquid).

This happens in materials like potassium when subject to very high pressure and at certain temperature ranges.

What piqued my attention is the fact that the team did the discovery using virtual potassium, i.e. bits representing potassium, and performing the experiment using a computer that was able to simulate the behaviour of 20,000 atoms of potassium. Both the material and the experiment where in the cyberspace. yet they are completely sure that this is what would happen in the real world under the same conditions and are now exploring, still in the cyberspace, other materials to see if they can have the same characteristics.

In the article the physicists are not stating that they will repeat the experiment in the real world, it looks like they are satisfied with the outcome in the cyberspace.

This is an example of Digital Transformation applied to physics. Rather than spending lot of money in laboratory equipment physicists are doing the experiments in the virtual world.

In Italy we say that by the end of the day we like to eat spaghetti, so I would like to see the experiment repeated with real potassium atoms and even be able to touch them curious of getting a sensation of something that is at the same time solid and liquid…

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