Experiment provides insight into superfluidity at the nanoscale

11/13/2013 - 00:00

Superfluidity refers to a state in which matter behaves like a liquid with zero viscosity. Much like superconductivity, this phenomenon occurs at extremely low temperatures and can cause a liquid like helium to behave in the strangest ways, e.g. roll up out of a container or even create a perpetual fountain. But beyond just a fascinating curiosity, superfluidity is frequently used in high-precision applications like quantum gyroscopes and even satellites that measure infrared radiation in space. 

With a few exceptions, superfluidity has generally been regarded as a macroscopic phenomenon, resulting from ‘bulky’ collections of particles rather than individual atoms. But in a recent Physical Review Letters paper, EPFL researchers have now shown that, at least in liquids, superfluidity involves dynamics that go down to the nanoscale.