Supersolids and superfluids rank among the most exotic of quantum mechanical phenomena. Superfluids can flow without any viscosity, and experience no friction as they flow along the walls of a container, because their atoms ‘condense’ into a highly coherent state of matter. Supersolids are also characterized by coherent effects, but between vacancies in a crystal lattice rather than between the solid’s atoms themselves.
The reduction in the rotational inertia of a bar of solid helium-4 as it was cooled to very low temperatures provided the first experimental evidence for supersolids. Physicists interpreted the reduction to mean that some amount of supersolid helium had formed and decoupled from the remainder of the bar, affecting its rotational inertia and frequency. Others argued that the reduction in inertia resulted from a change in the helium’s viscosity and elasticity with temperature, rather than from the onset of supersolidity.
Kimitoshi Kono from the RIKEN Advanced Science Institute in Wako, Eunseong Kim from KAIST in Korea, and their colleagues from these institutes have now disproved the alternative interpretation by simultaneously measuring the shear modulus (a measure of viscosity and elasticity) and the rotational inertia of a solid helium-4 cell as its temperature dropped from 1 kelvin to 15 thousandths of a kelvin. The cell was made to rotate clockwise and then counterclockwise periodically, as well as to rotate clockwise or counterclockwise continuously (Fig. 1). The continuous rotation affected the inertial mass of the helium but its shear modulus, allowing these quantities to be monitored independently.
Under continuous rotation, the degree of change in the rotational inertia had a clear dependence on rotation velocity, while the shear modulus did not. In addition, the energy dissipated by the rotation increased at high speeds. Both of these observations contrast to what would be expected if viscoelastic effects were at play, rather than supersolidity. The researchers also found that periodic rotation and continuous rotation affected the rotation differently, raising new questions about the experimental system.
The data support the interpretation that changes in the rotational inertia of helium-4 at low temperature result from supersolidity. This is important because of the novel and surprising nature of the phenomenon itself, says Kono. “Superfluidity in a solid is a very radical concept which, if proven, is certainly a good candidate for the Nobel Prize” he adds. “Therefore the first priority is to determine whether it can be proven in a fashion that will convince the low-temperature physics community.”
The corresponding author for this highlight is based at the Low Temperature Physics Laboratory, RIKEN Advanced Science Institute
 Choi, H., Takahashi, D., Kono, K. & Kim, E. Evidence of supersolidity in rotating solid helium. Science 330, 1512–1515 (2010).
Magnetic nano-imaging on a table top
20.04.2018 | Georg-August-Universität Göttingen
New record on squeezing light to one atom: Atomic Lego guides light below one nanometer
20.04.2018 | ICFO-The Institute of Photonic Sciences
University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.
Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.
Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.
Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...
Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.
The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...
Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS.
Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem...
In the fight against cancer, scientists are developing new drugs to hit tumor cells at so far unused weak points. Such a “sore spot” is the protein complex...
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
09.04.2018 | Event News
20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
20.04.2018 | Interdisciplinary Research
20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy