December 2, 2022


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What are quantum vortices?  We can finally see it

What are quantum vortices? We can finally see it

Something like this has never happened before. Physicists have developed a camera-like device capable of imaging miniature quantum vortices.

Vortexes arise in all mixed fluids. It can also be observed in tornadoes and tornadoes. It turns out that they also exist in the subatomic world.

The problem with vortices is that they are unpredictable—unlike quantum fluids, where vortices are always the same size due to effects that occur at very low temperatures, including in helium-3.

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Quantum vortices are so small that they could not be observed with conventional cameras. Until now. Physicists at Lancaster University Led by Dr. Theo Noble, they developed a new type of camera that uses particle-like perturbations rather than light to take pictures of swirl clusters. This discovery was reported in the journal physical review b.

The camera consists of a 5 x 5 array of pixels. Each of the 25 pixels is a millimeter-sized cylindrical bore with a quartz tuning fork. Physicists tested the camera on vortices created by vibrating wire in the form of ultra-cold helium.

The experiment works like shining a flashlight on a puppet with a shadow. Then we measure the shadows cast by the quantum vortices on the camera. Even with just a few pixels, we found that most eddies form on top of the vibrating wire, rather than developing around it.

Dr. Theo Noble

The observed phenomenon was not predicted by mathematical theories or numerical simulations. Therefore, scientists now want to build a 90-pixel camera that will be able to visualize the details of the evolution and decay of clusters of eddies. The ability to observe the dynamics of helium-3 superfluid will provide a better understanding of the turbulent motion of quantum fluids and turbulence in general.

It’s very exciting that our prototype is working. The high-resolution camera can also be used to image other topological flaws in superfluid helium-3, allowing us to get a peek at the counterpart of the early universe.

Dr. Victor Tsybilin from Lancaster University

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