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Concept: Vortices


Fire whirls are powerful, spinning disasters for people and surroundings when they occur in large urban and wildland fires. Whereas fire whirls have been studied for fire-safety applications, previous research has yet to harness their potential burning efficiency for enhanced combustion. This article presents laboratory studies of fire whirls initiated as pool fires, but where the fuel sits on a water surface, suggesting the idea of exploiting the high efficiency of fire whirls for oil-spill remediation. We show the transition from a pool fire, to a fire whirl, and then to a previously unobserved state, a “blue whirl.” A blue whirl is smaller, very stable, and burns completely blue as a hydrocarbon flame, indicating soot-free burning. The combination of fast mixing, intense swirl, and the water-surface boundary creates the conditions leading to nearly soot-free combustion. With the worldwide need to reduce emissions from both wanted and unwanted combustion, discovery of this state points to possible new pathways for reduced-emission combustion and fuel-spill cleanup. Because current methods to generate a stable vortex are difficult, we also propose that the blue whirl may serve as a research platform for fundamental studies of vortices and vortex breakdown in fluid mechanics.

Concepts: Fluid dynamics, Hydrogen, Tornado, Fire, Combustion, Vortices, Fuel, Flame


By using a half soap bubble heated from below, we obtain large isolated single vortices whose properties as well as their intensity are measured under different conditions. By studying the effects of rotation of the bubble on the vortex properties, we found that rotation favors vortices near the pole. Rotation also inhibits long life time vortices. The velocity and vorticity profiles of the vortices obtained are well described by a Gaussian vortex. Besides, the intensity of these vortices can be followed over long time spans revealing periods of intensification accompanied by trochoidal motion of the vortex center, features which are reminiscent of the behavior of tropical cyclones. An analysis of this intensification period suggests a simple relation valid for both the vortices observed here and for tropical cyclones.

Concepts: Fluid dynamics, Tropical cyclone, Tornado, Soap, Vortices, Vortex, Bubbles, Soap bubble


Iron pnictides are layered high T© superconductors with moderate material anisotropy and thus Abrikosov vortices are expected in the mixed state. Yet, we have discovered a distinct change in the nature of the vortices from Abrikosov-like to Josephson-like in the pnictide superconductor SmFeAs(O,F) with T©~48-50 K on cooling below a temperature T(*)~41-42 K, despite its moderate electronic anisotropy γ~4-6. This transition is hallmarked by a sharp drop in the critical current and accordingly a jump in the flux-flow voltage in a magnetic field precisely aligned along the FeAs layers, indicative of highly mobile vortices. T(*) coincides well with the temperature where the coherence length ξ© perpendicular to the layers matches half of the FeAs-layer spacing. For fields slightly out-of-plane (> 0.1°- 0.15°) the vortices are completely immobilized as well-pinned Abrikosov segments are introduced when the vortex crosses the FeAs layers. We interpret these findings as a transition from well-pinned, slow moving Abrikosov vortices at high temperatures to weakly pinned, fast flowing Josephson vortices at low temperatures. This vortex dynamics could become technologically relevant as superconducting applications will always operate deep in the Josephson regime.

Concepts: Electron, Fundamental physics concepts, Superconductivity, Vortices, Fluxon, Type-II superconductor, Josephson effect, Absolute zero


Quantized magnetic vortices driven by electric current determine key electromagnetic properties of superconductors. While the dynamic behavior of slow vortices has been thoroughly investigated, the physics of ultrafast vortices under strong currents remains largely unexplored. Here, we use a nanoscale scanning superconducting quantum interference device to image vortices penetrating into a superconducting Pb film at rates of tens of GHz and moving with velocities of up to tens of km/s, which are not only much larger than the speed of sound but also exceed the pair-breaking speed limit of superconducting condensate. These experiments reveal formation of mesoscopic vortex channels which undergo cascades of bifurcations as the current and magnetic field increase. Our numerical simulations predict metamorphosis of fast Abrikosov vortices into mixed Abrikosov-Josephson vortices at even higher velocities. This work offers an insight into the fundamental physics of dynamic vortex states of superconductors at high current densities, crucial for many applications.Ultrafast vortex dynamics driven by strong currents define eletromagnetic properties of superconductors, but it remains unexplored. Here, Embon et al. use a unique scanning microscopy technique to image steady-state penetration of super-fast vortices into a superconducting Pb film at rates of tens of GHz and velocities up to tens of km/s.

Concepts: Electron, Electromagnetism, Magnetic field, Fundamental physics concepts, Electric current, Electrical conductor, Magnetism, Vortices


Quantized vortices are key features of quantum fluids such as superfluid helium and Bose-Einstein condensates. The reconnection of quantized vortices and subsequent emission of Kelvin waves along the vortices are thought to be central to dissipation in such systems. By visualizing the motion of submicron particles dispersed in superfluid (4)He, we have directly observed the emission of Kelvin waves from quantized vortex reconnection. We characterize one event in detail, using dimensionless similarity coordinates, and compare it with several theories. Finally, we give evidence for other examples of wavelike behavior in our system.

Concepts: Quantum mechanics, Fluid dynamics, Observation, Superfluid, Boson, Vortices, Vortex, Quantum vortex


The high-frequency dynamics of mode-coupled magnetic vortices have generated great interest for spintronic technologies, such as spin-torque nano-oscillators. While the spectroscopic characteristics of vortex oscillators have been reported, direct imaging of driven coupled magnetic quasi-particles is essential to the fundamental understanding of the dynamics involved. Here, we present the first direct imaging study of driven interlayer coaxial vortices in the dipolar- and indirect exchange-coupled regimes. Employing in situ high-frequency excitation with Lorentz microscopy, we directly observe the steady-state orbital amplitudes in real space with sub-5 nm spatial resolution. We discuss the unique frequency response of dipolar- and exchange-coupled vortex motion, wherein mode splitting and locking demonstrates large variations in coherent motion, as well as detail the resultant orbital amplitudes. This provides critical insights of the fundamental features of collective vortex-based microwave generators, such as their steady-state amplitudes, tunability and mode-coupled motion.

Concepts: Time, Electron, Electromagnetism, Optics, Physics, Vortices, Vortex, Vorticity


Harbour seals possess highly sensitive vibrissae that enable them to track hydrodynamic trails left behind by a swimming fish. Most of these trails contain vortex rings as a main hydrodynamic component. They may reveal information about their generator as the trails differ depending on the fish species, the fish’s body shape, size, and swimming style. Additionally, fish generate single vortex rings in diverse natural situations. In this study, the ability of blindfolded stationary harbour seals to detect and analyse single vortex rings regarding directional information has been investigated. In three different behavioural experiments, the animals were trained to respond to single artificially generated vortex rings. The results show that harbour seals are able to respond to a variety of different vortex rings upon vibrissal stimulation. The investigation of the minimum hydrodynamically perceivable angle revealed that it is at least as small as 5.7°, which was the smallest adjustable angle. Moreover, harbour seals are capable of analysing the travel direction of a vortex ring perceived by the mystacial pads irrespective of whether the vibrissae were stimulated ipsilaterally or contralaterally. In situations in which no complex hydrodynamic trail is available, it is advantageous for a hunting seal to be able to extract information from a single vortex ring.

Concepts: Rings, Pinniped, Vortices, True seals, Harbor Seal, Vortex, Mushroom cloud, Vortex ring


Linked and knotted vortex loops have recently received a revival of interest. Such three-dimensional topological entities have been observed in both classical- and super-fluids, as well as in optical systems. In superconductors, they remained obscure due to their instability against collapse - unless supported by inhomogeneous magnetic field. Here we reveal a new kind of vortex matter in superconductors - the Josephson vortex loops - formed and stabilized in planar junctions or layered superconductors as a result of nontrivial cutting and recombination of Josephson vortices around the barriers for their motion. Engineering latter barriers opens broad perspectives on loop manipulation and control of other possible knotted/linked/entangled vortex topologies in nanostructured superconductors. In the context of Josephson devices proposed to date, the high-frequency excitations of the Josephson loops can be utilized in future design of powerful emitters, tunable filters and waveguides of high-frequency electromagnetic radiation, thereby pushing forward the much needed Terahertz technology.

Concepts: Electron, Electromagnetism, Photon, Maxwell's equations, Electromagnetic spectrum, Microwave, Vortices, Josephson effect


We present a computational study, based on time-dependent Density Functional theory, of the real-time interaction and trapping of Ar and Xe atoms in superfluid (4)He nanodroplets either pure or hosting quantized vortex lines. We investigate the phase-space trajectories of the impurities for different initial conditions and describe in detail the complex dynamics of the droplets during the capture of the impurities. We show that the interaction of the incoming atom with the vortex core induces large bending and twisting excitations of the vortex core lines, including the generation of helical Kelvin waves propagating along the vortex core. We have also calculated the stationary configurations of a (4)He droplet hosting a 6-vortex array whose cores are filled with Ar atoms. As observed in recent experiments, we find that doping adds substantial rigidity to the system, such that the doped vortex array remains stable, even at low values of the angular velocities where the undoped vortices would otherwise be pushed towards the droplet surface and be expelled.

Concepts: Quantum mechanics, Fundamental physics concepts, Condensed matter physics, Kinetic energy, Density functional theory, Vortices, Vortex, Quantum vortex


Despite being the most prominent dosage form for topical ocular delivery, eye-drops have several well-recognized drawbacks. Addressing these limitations, in this work we introduce a novel method to accurately deliver ophthalmic medications to the surface of the eye at relatively low volume and low velocity. By aerosolizing a medicament and dispensing it in the form of a toroidal vortex, commonly known as a “smoke ring”, several major drawbacks associated with topical drug delivery can be avoided.

Concepts: Pharmacology, Drug, Pharmaceutical drug, Topical, Route of administration, Smoke, Vortices, Vortex ring