Superfluid Helium

Posted on December 16, 2007  Comments (0)

image of superfluid helium scaling walls

Once helium is cooled to within 2 degrees above absolute zero helium becomes a superfluid. At that point is has zero viscosity and can do things like rise out of a container – scaling the walls. Graphic from Wikipedia on Superfluid:

Helium II will “creep” along surfaces in order to find its own level – after a short while, the levels in the two containers will equalize. The Rollin film also covers the interior of the larger container; if it were not sealed, the helium II would creep out and escape.

Related: Non-Newtonian Fluid WebcastSuperconductivity and SuperfluidityInner Life of a Cell (full version)Helium-3 Fusion Reactor

More interesting superfluid traits:

The superfluid component has zero viscosity, zero entropy, and infinite thermal conductivity. (It is thus impossible to set up a temperature gradient in a superfluid, much as it is impossible to set up a voltage difference in a superconductor.) One of the most spectacular results of these properties is known as the thermomechanical or “fountain effect”. If a capillary tube is placed into a bath of superfluid helium and then heated, even by shining a light on it, the superfluid helium will flow up through the tube and out the top as a result of the Clausius-Clapeyron relation. A second unusual effect is that superfluid helium can form a layer, a single atom thick, up the sides of any container in which it is placed.

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