10 March 2017 12:02

Lancaster and Manchester Universities have won a joint £2M award for physics research which may lead to “significant technological impact in the longer term.”  

The four year grant from the EPSRC will fund the UK’s largest research project into quantum turbulence, utilising the Lancaster and Manchester low-temperature laboratories in their Departments of Physics.

Lancaster’s Professor Peter McClintock said he was delighted with the award.

“Much of the energy used in air or sea transport, for example, goes into the creation of turbulence. If improved understanding leads eventually to even a small reduction in turbulence production, the corresponding energy savings would pay for the cost of the present research programme many times over.”

Any improvements in reducing the loss of energy via creation of quantum turbulence could improve the efficiency of large superconducting magnets.

These are already in use in areas such as hospital MRI scanners, the Large Hadron Collider at CERN and the supply of cryogenic equipment, where the UK plays a leading role.

In the longer term, this research connects to advances in commercial technology. Commercial development is facilitated by Lancaster Cryogenics Ltd and Lancaster Helium Ltd, two companies founded by members of the Lancaster Physics Ultra Low Temperature group to export knowledge, specialist equipment and supplies of isotopically pure helium.

Turbulence in superfluid helium, known as quantum turbulence, is special because quantum mechanics restricts all vortices to have a single fixed value of circulation, leading to a dynamic tangle of vortices.

Professor McClintock said: “This builds on our earlier work and will enable us to measure the critical velocities at which turbulence is created so we can understand its properties.”

All previous experiments on the generation of quantum turbulence have used objects with convex surfaces but this project will use concave structures created at Lancaster.

The project entitled “Microscopic dynamics of quantized vortices in turbulent superfluid in the T=0 limit” is led by Professor Andrei Golov  from Manchester University and Professor Peter McClintock, Dr Viktor Tsepelin and Dr Malcolm Poole from Lancaster University with Emeritus Professor Joe Vinen from Birmingham University.