Properties of Superfluids

Superfluid He

Superfluid Research

Bose-Einstein Condensates


Physics of Superconductors

Superconductors and magnetism



Superfluids and Superconductors

In 1924, the Indian physicist S. N. Bose developed an alternate law of radiation which modified Planck's laws to include a new variety of particles, namely, the boson. He sent off his theory to Einstein for revision and translation, and Einstein swiftly came up with some additions to the theory. He expanded the laws to incorporate the mass of the boson, and in doing so theorized a strange phenomenon. He predicted that when atoms of a gas came together under cold enough temperatures, and slowed down significantly, that they would all assume the exact same quantum state. He knew that this slow quantum gas would have strange properties, but wasn't able to get much further by theorizing. This phenomenon, which came to be known as a Bose-Einstien condensate, was an incredible leap in quantum theory, but it wasn't demonstrated until 1995 when Eric A. Cornell, Wolfgang Ketterle and Carl E. Wieman made the first Bose-Einstein condensate with supercooled alkali gas atoms. Although this development didn't come until late in the 20th century, many of these strange properties were observed in supercooled He4 by Dr. Pyotr Kapitsa. Helium became the standard for observing superfluid phenomenon, and most new superfluid properties are still observed first in Helium 4.

Superconductivity, a similar phenomenon, was discovered in 1911 by Dutch physicist Heike Kamerlingh Onnes. When he cooled some mercury down to liquid helium temperatures, it began to conduct electricity with no resistance at all. People began experimenting with other metals, and found that many tranisition metals exhibit this characteristic of 0 resistance if cooled sufficiently. Superconductors are analagous to superfluids in that the charges within them move somewhat like a superfluid - with no resistance through sections of extremely small cross-sectional area. Physicists soon discovered that oxides of copper and other compounds could reach even higher superconducting temperatures. Currently, the highest temperature at wich a material can be superconductive is 138K, and is held by the compound Hg0.8Tl0.2Ba2Ca2Cu3O8.33.