Journal of Low Temperature Physics

, Volume 187, Issue 3–4, pp 195–220 | Cite as

On the Transition from Potential Flow to Turbulence Around a Microsphere Oscillating in Superfluid \(^4\hbox {He}\)

  • M. Niemetz
  • R. Hänninen
  • W. Schoepe


The flow of superfluid \(^4\hbox {He}\) around a translationally oscillating sphere, levitating without mechanical support, can either be laminar or turbulent, depending on the velocity amplitude. Below a critical velocity \(v_\mathrm{c}\) that scales as \(\omega ^{1/2}\) and is temperature independent below 1 K, the flow is laminar (potential flow). Below 0.5 K, the linear drag force is caused by ballistic phonon scattering that vanishes as \(T^4\) until background damping, measured in the empty cell, becomes dominant for \(T < 0.1\) K. Increasing the velocity amplitude above \(v_\mathrm{c}\) leads to a transition from potential flow to turbulence, where the large turbulent drag force varies as \((v^2 - v_\mathrm{c}^2)\). In a small velocity interval \(\Delta v {/} v_\mathrm{c} \le 3\)% above \(v_\mathrm{c}\), the flow is unstable below 0.5 K, switching intermittently between both patterns. From time series recorded at constant temperature and driving force, the lifetimes of both phases are analyzed statistically. We observe metastable states of potential flow which, after a mean lifetime of 25 min, ultimately break down due to vorticity created by natural background radioactivity. The lifetimes of the turbulent phases have an exponential distribution, and the mean increases exponentially with \(\Delta v^2\). We investigate the frequency at which the vortex rings are shed from the sphere. Our results are compared with recent data of other authors on vortex shedding by moving a laser beam through a Bose–Einstein condensate. Finally, we show that our observed transition to turbulence belongs to the class of “supertransient chaos” where lifetimes of the turbulent states increase faster than exponentially.


Quantum turbulence Superfluid helium Oscillatory flow Critical velocity Vortex shedding Bose–Einstein condensates 



We acknowledge early contributions by K. Gloos, J. Simola and J. Tuoriniemi (then all at Helsinki University of Technology, Finland), who invented the technique to oscillate a levitating particle and shared their expertise with us. Experiments with a levitating sphere immersed in superfluid helium were conducted at Regensburg University from 1993 on by H. Barowski and J. Jäger. H. Kerscher was a co-worker on the experiment in 2000. M. Bleher (Federal Office for Radiation Protection (Bf S), Braunschweig) performed the measurements of the dose rate of the natural background radiation in our laboratory. A helpful discussion with the late Shaun Fisher is gratefully acknowledged. Support and encouragement came from M. Krusius (Aalto University, Helsinki) and from K.F. Renk (Regensburg University). R.H. was supported by the Academy of Finland and M.N. by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft. W.S. is grateful to the O.V. Lounasmaa Laboratory (Aalto University) for the warm hospitality experienced during many visits.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.OTH RegensburgRegensburgGermany
  2. 2.Low Temperature Laboratory, Department of Applied PhysicsAalto UniversityEspooFinland
  3. 3.Fakultät für PhysikUniversität RegensburgRegensburgGermany

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