Superfluid Vortices

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Cooling helium to a few degrees Kelvin above absolute zero produces superfluid helium, a substance with some very bizarre behaviors caused by a lack of viscosity. Superfluids exhibit quantum mechanical properties on a macroscopic scale; for example, when rotated, a superfluid’s vorticity is quantized into distinct vortex lines, known as quantum vortices. These vortices can be visualized in a superfluid by introducing solid tracer particles, which congregate inside the vortex line, making it appear as a dotted line, as shown in the video above. When these vortex lines approach one another, they can break and reconnect into new vortices. These reconnections provoke helical Kelvin waves, a phenomenon that had not been directly observed until the present work by E. Fonda and colleagues. They are even able to show that the waves they observe match several proposed models for the behavior. (Video credit: E. Fonda et al.)

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