Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

High-Tech Helium Tricks May Benefit Earth And Space

Date:
June 8, 2001
Source:
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory
Summary:
Imagine turning on your faucet and watching water flow out and then flow right back up into the faucet. NASA scientists have observed a similar phenomenon by using superfluid helium-4 in laboratory research that could improve earthquake prediction and spacecraft navigation.

Imagine turning on your faucet and watching water flow out and then flow right back up into the faucet. NASA scientists have observed a similar phenomenon by using superfluid helium-4 in laboratory research that could improve earthquake prediction and spacecraft navigation.

The team of scientists, led by Dr. Dave Pearson of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., is the first ever to observe this phenomenon, called the Josephson effect, in superfluid helium-4, the most common type of helium. Superfluids allow matter to flow without friction in the same way that electricity flows without resistance in a superconductor.

The Josephson effect was first predicted in 1962 by Nobel Prize Laureate Brian Josephson. For ordinary fluids, a pressure difference along a pipe causes fluid to flow from the high pressure to low pressure area; thus, water comes down out of a faucet and stays there. But with the Josephson effect, when pressure is applied, fluids begin to oscillate back and forth, or up and down, at a rate in direct proportion to the pressure difference. In essence, this effect enables a fluid to defy gravity.

"My colleagues and I used very high-resolution thermometers to precisely control the superfluid temperature to approximately two degrees above absolute zero," Pearson said. Absolute zero is the temperature at which scientists think that no further cooling can occur.

At this extreme cold, helium-4 enters a quantum state, in which its behavior becomes very odd. By using electrostatic forces to create a pressure difference across a pipe, Pearson and his colleagues saw that the fluid began to oscillate from one end to the other.

This strange effect is created because the fluid begins obeying laws of quantum mechanics, which govern how atoms behave at super-low temperatures. "What we see is quantum mechanics on the macroscopic scale," Pearson said. "This was very exciting for us, because we thought various technical factors would prevent the Josephson effect from occurring."

The successful observation of the Josephson effect in superfluid helium-4 allows measurements of very small rotation, enabling scientists to measure very precisely how fast Earth rotates. Monitoring Earth's rotation speed could yield information on minute movement of tectonic plates, which may eventually help predict earthquakes.

In addition, this research could lead to extremely precise, yet simple, gyroscopes to navigate spacecraft. Among the NASA missions that may benefit is the Terrestrial Planet Finder, which may use multiple spacecraft flying in very precise formation to image planets around other stars, looking for Earthlike planets that may harbor life.

The Josephson effect had been observed in superconductors in 1963, then in isotope helium-3 in 1987, but it has eluded researchers for 35 years in helium-4. Certain properties of helium-4 make it easier to work with in laboratories and in space. The research by Pearson and his team was conducted under a grant from NASA's Biological and Physical Research Program.

Pearson co-authored the quantum experiment paper, which appears in the May 17 issue of the journal Nature, with Drs. Talso Chui and Kalyani Sukhatme of JPL and collaborator Dr. Yury Mukharsky of CEA-DRECAM (Commissariat a l' Energie Atomique, Département de Recherche sur l 'Etat Condensé, les Atomes et les Molécules) from Saclay, France. More information on the BPR Fundamental Physics Program can be found at the following Web sites:

http://spaceresearch.nasa.gov

http://funphysics.jpl.nasa.gov

JPL manages the Fundamental Physics in Microgravity Research Program for NASA's Office of Biological and Physical Research, Washington, D.C. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "High-Tech Helium Tricks May Benefit Earth And Space." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 June 2001. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/05/010521072841.htm>.
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. (2001, June 8). High-Tech Helium Tricks May Benefit Earth And Space. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/05/010521072841.htm
NASA/Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "High-Tech Helium Tricks May Benefit Earth And Space." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2001/05/010521072841.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways

Britain Testing Driverless Cars on Roadways

AP (July 30, 2014) — British officials said on Wednesday that driverless cars will be tested on roads in as many as three cities in a trial program set to begin in January. Officials said the tests will last up to three years. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Amid Drought, UCLA Sees Only Water

Amid Drought, UCLA Sees Only Water

AP (July 30, 2014) — A ruptured 93-year-old water main left the UCLA campus awash in 8 million gallons of water in the middle of California's worst drought in decades. (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow

Smartphone Powered Paper Plane Debuts at Airshow

AP (July 30, 2014) — Smartphone powered paper airplane that was popular on crowdfunding website KickStarter makes its debut at Wisconsin airshow (July 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
U.K. To Allow Driverless Cars On Public Roads

U.K. To Allow Driverless Cars On Public Roads

Newsy (July 30, 2014) — Driverless cars could soon become a staple on U.K. city streets, as they're set to be introduced to a few cities in 2015. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



      Save/Print:
      Share:  

      Free Subscriptions


      Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

      Get Social & Mobile


      Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

      Have Feedback?


      Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
      Mobile iPhone Android Web
      Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
      Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
      Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins