Research ArticleQuantum Mechanics

Critical flow and dissipation in a quasi–one-dimensional superfluid

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Science Advances  15 May 2015:
Vol. 1, no. 4, e1400222
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1400222


In one of the most celebrated examples of the theory of universal critical phenomena, the phase transition to the superfluid state of 4He belongs to the same three-dimensional (3D) O(2) universality class as the onset of ferromagnetism in a lattice of classical spins with XY symmetry. Below the transition, the superfluid density ρs and superfluid velocity vs increase as a power law of temperature described by a universal critical exponent that is constrained to be identical by scale invariance. As the dimensionality is reduced toward 1D, it is expected that enhanced thermal and quantum fluctuations preclude long-range order, thereby inhibiting superfluidity. We have measured the flow rate of liquid helium and deduced its superfluid velocity in a capillary flow experiment occurring in single 30-nm-long nanopores with radii ranging down from 20 to 3 nm. As the pore size is reduced toward the 1D limit, we observe the following: (i) a suppression of the pressure dependence of the superfluid velocity; (ii) a temperature dependence of vs that surprisingly can be well-fitted by a power law with a single exponent over a broad range of temperatures; and (iii) decreasing critical velocities as a function of decreasing radius for channel sizes below R ≃ 20 nm, in stark contrast with what is observed in micrometer-sized channels. We interpret these deviations from bulk behavior as signaling the crossover to a quasi-1D state, whereby the size of a critical topological defect is cut off by the channel radius.

  • superfluidity
  • mass flow
  • luttinger liquids
  • strongly-correlated systems
  • quantum fluids
  • dissipation

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