March 20, 2024 at 12:35 pm

Scientists Confirm The Existence Of “Second Sound” And A New Method Of Thermography

by Trisha Leigh

Scientists have long known that heat moves outward from its source before dissipating, and theorized that superheated gas would follow those same patterns.

Now, they say they’ve used superfluid quantum gas to prove their theory.

Rare materials often don’t follow the same rules as, say, a piece of burning coal dropped into a pot of water.

In that case, the water nearest the coal heats first, and the water at the edges of the container won’t be as hot as the water at the middle.

Source: YouTube

Superfluid quantum gasses, though, tend to “slosh” the heat from side to side, kind of like a wave. Scientists have dubbed this “second sound,” and although it’s been observed, it’s never before been imaged.

Now, scientists at MIT have changed the game by capturing the movement of pure heat using a new method of thermography.

Assistant professor and co-author Richard Fletcher used the boiling pot analogy to highlight how strange the idea of “second sound” really is.

“It’s as if you had a tank of water and made one half nearly boiling. If you then watched, the water itself might look totally calm, but suddenly the other side is hot, and then the other side is hot, and the heat goes back and forth, while the water looks totally still.”

Source Credit: MIT

Superfluids are created when a cloud of atoms is subjected to super cold temperatures (like approaching absolute zero). Atoms behave differently in extreme conditions, creating a friction-free fluid where heat can act like a wave.

Lead author Martin Zwerlein explained how their experiment would work.

“Second sound is the hallmark of superfluidity, but in ultracold gases so far you could only see it in this faint reflection of the density ripples that go along with it. The character of the heat wave could not be proven before.”

Zweierlein and his team knew they had to think outside the box if they were going to track the heat of an ultracold object because they don’t emit the usual infrared information.

Instead they sought to leverage radio frequencies to track subatomic particles called lithium-6 fermions. Those can be captured via different frequencies in relation to their temperature.

This allowed researchers to zero in on the “hotter” (but still really cold) frequencies and track the second wave over time.

This might not seem like a big deal to a regular person, but exotic superfluids could help experts answer questions about high-temperature superconductors or even neutron stars.

So, scientists are pretty excited about that.

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