Experimental study of metastable solid and superfluid helium-4

Metastable solid helium is a possible candidate for supersolidity. In 2011, our group has demonstrated that we could obtain the metastable solid helium at pressures below the melting pressure using a focused acoustic wave. However, an unexpected instability occurs when the local pressure of the crystal reaches 21 bar which is 4 bar below the melting pressure. So I started my thesis by studying the appearance time of the instability, and I confirmed that it always appears at the low pressure swing of the acoustic wave.

Then, I studied the cavitation limit of superfluid helium at negative pressure. Using an interferometric method developed by my predecessor Fabien Souris, I directly measured the cavitation density of metastable superfluid helium. I found that at 1 K, superfluid helium cavitates when its local density is lowered by 8.4%. Using a theoretically well-established equation of state, this result can be converted to a cavitation pressure in order to compare our results with those obtained by others groups. To my surprise, my result is not consistent with the others’. This incompatibility raises interesting questions about the possibility of nucleation of the bubble on quantified vortices.

Finally, I studied the dynamics of the helium bubble triggered by cavitation. By analyzing the equation of motion of bubble and the corresponding heat transfer, I have successfully explained why the bubble’s lifetime has a dramatic transition as the helium passes from normal liquid to superfluid.