Mystery Solved: Why There’s No Speed Limit in The Superfluid Universe

One of the biggest challenges in science is to reconcile quantum physics with Einstein’s General Relativity Theory. The subatomic particles’ realm is governed by totally different laws than the one of the ‘big stuff’ like humans, animals, planets, stars, etc.

In order to reconcile anything between the two realms, scientists first have to learn as much as possible about both of them. One of the mysteries was, until recently, why objects that were moving through superfluid helium-3 (a rare isotope of helium) are lacking a speed limit.

Exotic particles that stick to surfaces in the superfluid represent the explanation

The discovery belongs to scientists from Lancaster University, although previously it was thought that exceeding the Landau velocity would destroy the superfluid in question.

The researchers had to cool the superfluid helium-3 to less than one ten thousandth of a degree from absolute zero. The next step was to move a wire at high speed through the superfluid, and measuring how much force it was needed to move the wire. Oddly enough, the measured force was zero excepting a minimal force that emerged for moving particles just when the wire started to move.

Lead author Dr. Samuli Autti declared:

“Superfluid helium-3 feels like vacuum to a rod moving through it, although it is a relatively dense liquid. There is no resistance, none at all. I find this very intriguing.”

PhD student Ash Jennings said:

 “By making the rod change its direction of motion we were able to conclude that the rod will be hidden from the superfluid by the bound particles covering it, even when its speed is very high.”

The new discovery can guide applications in the field of quantum technology, but also for quantum computing. The study was published within Nature Communications, and the research team included the names Viktor Tsepelin, Jakub Vonka, Richard Haley, Ash Jennings, Samuli Autti, Sean Ahlstrom, Malcolm Poole, Roch Schanen, George Pickett, Tom Wilcox, Andrew Woods, and Dmitry Zmeev.

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