X-ray laser probes tiny quantum tornadoes in superfluid droplets

tornadoes heliumAn experiment at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory revealed a well-organized 3-D grid of quantum “tornadoes” inside microscopic droplets of supercooled liquid helium — the first time this formation has been seen at such a tiny scale.

The findings by an international research team provide new insight on the strange nanoscale traits of a so-called “superfluid” state of liquid helium. When chilled to extremes, liquid helium behaves according to the rules of quantum mechanics that apply to matter at the smallest scales and defy the laws of classical physics. This superfluid state is one of just a few examples of quantum behavior on a large scale that makes the behavior easier to see and study.The results, detailed in the Aug. 22 issue of Science, could help shed light on similar quantum states, such as those in superconducting materials that conduct electricity with 100 percent efficiency or the strange collectives of particles, dubbed Bose-Einstein condensates, which act as a single unit.

“What we found in this experiment was really surprising. We did not expect the beauty and clarity of the results,” said Christoph Bostedt, a co-leader of the experiment and a senior scientist at SLAC’s Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS), the DOE Office of Science User Facility where the experiment was conducted.

“We were able to see a manifestation of the quantum world on a macroscopic scale,” said Ken Ferguson, a PhD student from Stanford University working at LCLS.

While tiny tornadoes had been seen before in chilled helium, they hadn’t been seen in such tiny droplets, where they were packed 100,000 times more densely than in any previous experiment on superfluids, Ferguson said.

source : http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140821141544.htm

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