Superfluids Can Become Supersolids

When the isotopes Helium-3 and Helium-4 are cooled to extremely low temperatures, they become liquid and exhibit superfluid properties. This means they have a viscosity near zero and can flow without losing kinetic energy. A vortex created while a fluid is in this state will continue to rotate without dissipating.

Under low temperatures and pressures, physicists have used lasers to manipulate the atoms of a superfluid gas to coax it into a solid with properties like a superfluid. They call this new state of matter a supersolid.

Considering the extreme low temperature and near vacuum conditions required, a laboratory in space would be an ideal location to conduct further research.

MIT researchers create new form of matter – [mit.edu]

MIT physicists have created a new form of matter, a supersolid, which combines the properties of solids with those of superfluids.

By using lasers to manipulate a superfluid gas known as a Bose-Einstein condensate, the team was able to coax the condensate into a quantum phase of matter that has a rigid structure — like a solid — and can flow without viscosity — a key characteristic of a superfluid. Studies into this apparently contradictory phase of matter could yield deeper insights into superfluids and superconductors, which are important for improvements in technologies such as superconducting magnets and sensors, as well as efficient energy transport. The researchers report their results this week in the journal Nature.

“It is counterintuitive to have a material which combines superfluidity and solidity,” says team leader Wolfgang Ketterle, the John D. MacArthur Professor of Physics at MIT. “If your coffee was superfluid and you stirred it, it would continue to spin around forever.”

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