First, some background
Fundamentally new phenomena are predicted to occur when atoms (or molecules) of low mass and weak interactions are constrained to move in low dimensions. These phenomena that result from quantum mechanics are particularly pronounced for helium atoms confined to the interior of nanotubes.
What did scientists discover?
Scientists explored the motion of helium-3 atoms (the light isotope of helium) that is admitted to the interior of a nano-tubular silicate structure (MCM-41) by using magnetic resonance techniques that can follow the dynamics of the atoms at very low temperatures. The helium-3 atoms follow the rules of a special type of quantum statistics called called Fermi statistics, and this has been observed with a hint of quantum degenerate behavior at the lowest temperatures so far obtained.
Why is this important?
The experiment demonstrates that one can observe emergent quantum fluid behavior of helium-3 confined to one dimension by using specialized nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) capabilities developed for low temperatures down to 100 mK.
This finding also opens the path to testing for the predicted behavior of degenerate Fermi fluids at still lower temperatures (<80mK), in order to access the limit of a 1D Fermi fluid where Luttinger liquid properties should be observable. The Luttinger liquid is a rare example of an exactly solvable quantum mechanical system. Physical realization of Luttinger liquids and the experimental probing of their emergent properties is a long-standing goal in condensed matter physics to test our understanding of strongly correlated quantum matter.
Who did the research?
C. Huan1, N. Masuhara1, J. Adams1, M. Lewkowski1, D. Candela2, N. S. Sullivan3
1University of Florida; 2University of Massachusetts; 3National MagLab
Why did they need the MagLab?
This experiment required the ultra-quiet environment and high cooling power refrigerators of the MagLab high B/T Facility in order to be able to observe the small number of atoms. Advanced magnetic resonance spectrometers that generate less radio-frequency heating are being developed to probe to even lower temperatures.
Details for scientists
- View or download the expert-level Science Highlight, Dynamics of 3He in Nanotubes
- Proceedings of the 28th International Conference on Low Temperature, August 2017, Sweden, J. Phys. Conf. Series (In Press)
This research was funded by the following grants: G.S. Boebinger (NSF DMR-1157490); N. S. Sullivan (DMR-1303599)
For more information, contact Neil Sullivan.