Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Physics on a plane: Helium crystals grown in zero gravity

Date:
December 12, 2012
Source:
Institute of Physics
Summary:
Physicists from Japan have taken to the skies to grow crystals in zero gravity. Helium crystals were grown using high pressures, extremely low temperatures (0.6K/-272C) and by splashing them with a superfluid -- a state of quantum matter which behaves like a fluid but has zero viscosity, meaning it has complete resistance to stress. Superfluids can also flow through extremely tiny gaps without any friction.

A group of physicists from Japan have taken to the skies to grow crystals in zero gravity.
Credit: Image courtesy of Institute of Physics

A group of physicists from Japan have taken to the skies to grow crystals in zero gravity.

Presenting their results December 13 in the Institute of Physics and German Physical Society's New Journal of Physics, they've overcome the limitations of the laboratory to examine the peculiar dynamics of helium crystals on a much larger scale than can be achieved with ordinary materials.

Their results could help researchers reveal the fundamental physics behind the development of crystals, whilst also unveiling phenomena that are usually hidden by gravity.

The helium crystals were grown using high pressures, extremely low temperatures (0.6K/-272C) and by splashing them with a superfluid -- a state of quantum matter which behaves like a fluid but has zero viscosity, meaning it has complete resistance to stress. Superfluids can also flow through extremely tiny gaps without any friction.

Lead author of the study, Professor Ryuji Nomura from the Tokyo Institute of Technology, said: "Helium crystals can grow from a superfluid extremely fast because the helium atoms are carried by a swift superflow, so it cannot hinder the crystallization process. It has been an ideal material to study the fundamental issues of crystal shape because the crystals form so quickly.

"It can take thousands of years for ordinary classic crystals to reach their final shape; however, at very low temperatures helium crystals can reach their final shape within a second. When helium crystals grow larger than 1 mm they can be easily deformed by gravity, which is why we did our experiments on a plane."

The experiments were carried out in a small jet plane in cooperation with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). When on a specific trajectory, known as parabolic flight, the jet plane provided zero gravity conditions for 20 seconds. Around eight experiments were performed during a two-hour flight.

A small, specially designed refrigerator was taken on board the plane, which was fitted with windows so the formation of the crystals could be observed. Large helium crystals were placed at the bottom of a high-pressure chamber and then zapped with an acoustic wave to crush them into tiny pieces; they were then splashed with a helium-4 superfluid. Once crushed, the smaller crystals were melted and larger ones grew rapidly until only one 10 mm crystal survived.

The crystal grew under a process known as Ostwald ripening. This is commonly seen in ice cream when it becomes gritty and crunchy as it gets older -- larger ice crystals begin to grow at the expense of smaller ice crystals.

"Ostwald ripening is usually a very slow process and has never been seen in such huge crystals in a very short period," continued Professor Nomura.

Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xkjzKjGo40A


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Institute of Physics. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Takuya Takahashi, Haruka Ohuchi, Ryuji Nomura, Yuichi Okuda. Ripening of splashed4He crystals by acoustic waves with and without gravity. New Journal of Physics, 2012; 14 (12): 123023 DOI: 10.1088/1367-2630/14/12/123023

Cite This Page:

Institute of Physics. "Physics on a plane: Helium crystals grown in zero gravity." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 December 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121212205617.htm>.
Institute of Physics. (2012, December 12). Physics on a plane: Helium crystals grown in zero gravity. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121212205617.htm
Institute of Physics. "Physics on a plane: Helium crystals grown in zero gravity." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121212205617.htm (accessed August 1, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Friday, August 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Tesla, Panasonic Ink Deal To Make Huge Battery 'Gigafactory'

Tesla, Panasonic Ink Deal To Make Huge Battery 'Gigafactory'

Newsy (July 31, 2014) The deal will help build a massive battery factory that Tesla says will produce 500,000 lithium batteries by 2020. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
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
7 Ways to Use Toothpaste: Howdini Hacks

7 Ways to Use Toothpaste: Howdini Hacks

Howdini (July 30, 2014) Fresh breath and clean teeth are great, but have you ever thought, "my toothpaste could be doing more". Well, it can! Lots of things! Howdini has 7 new uses for this household staple. Video provided by Howdini
Powered by NewsLook.com
Smoked: 2015 Ducati Diavel Vs 2014 Chevy Corvette Stingray Drag Race

Smoked: 2015 Ducati Diavel Vs 2014 Chevy Corvette Stingray Drag Race

Cycle World (July 30, 2014) The Bonnier Motorcycle Group presents Smoked; a three part video series. In this episode the 2015 Ducati Diavel takes on the 2014 Chevy Corvette Stingray Video provided by Cycle World
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