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A new method for shaping matter into complex shapes, with the use of 'twisted' light, has been demonstrated in research at the University of Strathclyde.

When are cooled to temperatures close to absolute zero (-273 degrees C), they stop behaving like particles and start to behave like waves.

Atoms in this condition, which are known as Bose–Einstein condensates (BECs), are useful for purposes such as realization of atom lasers, slow light, quantum simulations for understanding the complex behavior of materials like superconductors and superfluids, and the precision measurement technique of atom interferometry.

The Strathclyde study has shown that when twisted light is shone on to a moving BEC, it breaks into clusters of BEC droplets that move following the light's features, with the number of droplets equal to twice the number of light twists. Altering the properties of the light beam can change both the number of BEC droplets and the way that they move.

The research has been published in Physical Review Letters.

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