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  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: May 2010

10 - Superfluidity


The goal of this chapter will be to briefly describe the remarkable properties of helium at low temperatures. After stating some of these properties we will see how they can be understood in terms of the phenomenon of Bose–Einstein condensation described in Chapter 7. We will give the main argument in two different formulations, once using the quasi-particle method of Bogoliubov, and then using a Green function approach.

We start with some experimental facts. Helium is a remarkable element. It was predicted to exist from observations of the Sun before it was found on Earth. It is the only element which remains a liquid at zero temperature and atmospheric pressure. Experimentally the phase diagram of 4He is shown in Figure 10.1. Helium I is a normal fluid and has a normal gas-liquid critical point. Helium II is a mixture of a normal fluid and a superfluid. The superfluid is characterized by the vanishing of its viscosity. Helium I and helium II are separated by a line known as the λ-transition line. At Tλ= 2.18 K, Pλ= 2.29 Pa, helium I, helium II, and helium gas coexist. The specific heat of liquid helium along the vapor transition line forms a logarithmic discontinuity shown in Figure 10.2. The form of this diagram resembles the Greek letter λ and is the reason for calling the transition a λ-transition.

The lack of viscosity of helium II leads to some remarkable experimental consequences, one of which we briefly describe. Let two containers A and B be linked by a thin capillary through which only a fluid with zero (or very low) viscosity can pass freely.

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