We review, aiming at an audience of final year undergraduates, the phenomena observed in, and properties of, microcavity exciton-polariton condensates. These are condensates of mixed light and matter, consisting of superpositions of photons in semiconductor microcavities and excitons in quantum wells. Because of the imperfect confinement of the photon component, exciton-polaritons have a finite lifetime, and have to be continuously repopulated. Therefore, exciton-polariton condensates lie somewhere between equilibrium Bose-Einstein condensates and lasers. We review in particular the evidence for condensation, the coherence properties studied experimentally, and the wide variety of spatial structures either observed or predicted to exist in exciton-polariton condensates, including quantised vortices and other coherent structures. We also discuss the question of superfluidity in a non-equilibrium system, reviewing both the experimental attempts to investigate superfluidity to date, and the theoretical suggestions of how it may be further elucidated.
- Pattern formation
- Polariton laser