Lancaster University has won a £1.3 M award for research into quantum turbulence.
The funding from the EPSRC is for a four-year project entitled "Creation and evolution of quantum turbulence in novel geometries".
The research team is led by Professor Peter McClintock with Lancaster researchers Professor Aneta Stefanovska, Dr Dmitry Zmeev and Professor Viktor Tsepelin.
International partners include Charles University in the Czech Republic, King Juan Carlos University in Spain and Osaka Metropolitan University in Japan.
Turbulence is ubiquitous in the real world and affects almost every aspect of our daily lives, including transport, energy production, climate, and biological processes, but despite its universal importance, it is not well understood.
Quantum mechanics often makes complex problems conceptually simpler, and quantum turbulence in super fluids is a prime example. Emerging at -271 °C in liquid helium, superfluidity is a rare quantum phenomenon affecting the behaviour of large-scale volumes of matter.
The conditions suitable for observation of turbulence in cryogenic helium are unlikely to be met in 'real life', outside a handful of specialised laboratories.
However, the knowledge gained from the low-temperature research will shed light on the nature of similar turbulent flows in a variety of media ranging from air to the interiors of distant neutron stars.
The researchers are collaborating with leading groups from Spain, the Czech Republic and Japan to create new instruments needed for the project.
First, they will study the conditions for the onset of turbulence using a specialised ultra-sensitive oscillator, which can spin back and forth on its axis at very high velocities.
Secondly, they will make a device to control the motion of a superconducting ball levitating in helium.
Dr Dmitry Zmeev, who will lead on the implementation of the levitating ball, said: 'We have set the very challenging task of being able to move precisely a superconducting levitating ball at very low temperatures.
"At the same time, we must be able to monitor how turbulence in the helium affects this motion. This will allow us to draw conclusions about parameters of turbulence and to generalise the laws governing turbulence in other media."
Watch a levitating ball flying in superfluids here: https://youtu.be/KIFLqrz-Q2Q