By Kelly Dickerson
Inside a single wheel-shaped droplet of liquid helium rotating 2 million times per second, scientists have spotted a storm of dozens of tiny tornadoes whirling around.
The droplets of liquid heliumspun 100,000 times faster than in any previous experiments. The grid of quantum tornadoes inside the droplets could reveal interesting information on the bizarre nature of “superfluid” liquid helium and the nature of quantum rotation, say the international team of scientists involved in the study.
“The quest for quantum vortices in superfluid droplets has stretched for decades,” Andrey Vilesov, a professor of chemistry at the University of Southern California, said in a statement. “But this is the first time they have been seen in superfluid droplets.”
A superfluid state happens when a substance behaves like a liquid with zero viscosity — a measure of a liquid’s thickness, or its resistance to flow. For example, honey has a much higher viscosity than water. The particles in superfluid liquid lose all friction and instead move around in unison like one supersize particle.