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Gravitational Relativistic Physics (GRP)
Low Temperature and Condensed Matter Physics
    PRESENT: Ongoing Research

Launch Date: Late 2006
Mission Duration: 6 to 14 weeks
Principle Investigator: Prof. Guenter Ahlers, UC Santa Barbara


BEST image

Key Questions We Want to Answer:

Boundaries confine a material. For example, the shoreline acts as a boundary separating the ocean and land. Of course, a child digging the sand in Malibu does not affect the properties of seawater in the Central Pacific. However, if the confinement of a system is reduced in size it is possible to view unusual interactions between the atoms. The Boundary Effects on the Superfluid Transition (BEST) experiment studies molecular-level boundary issues using liquid helium during a phase transition between fluid and superfluid states. Helium is used for this experiment because of its high purity in liquid form and the long history of data describing its superfluid transition in great detail. BEST adds dynamic boundary effects data to that understanding.

What We Hope to Find Out:

By studying the dynamic behavior of a material when confined in different geometries, BEST will advance knowledge of the fundamental nature of materials when limited to only one or two dimensions. Because BEST conducts measurements at a phase transition, it provides information about a much broader range of phase transitions in other materials, which helps us understand on a fundamental level how molecules act together rather than individually.

How We'll Conduct Our Experiment:

The experiment is constructed with three parallel sample cells mounted inside a thermally shielding can the size of a coffee can. The one-dimensional and two-dimensional cell interiors are divided respectively into cylindrical and pancake-shaped channels. Simultaneous measurement on all three cells provides several boundary types for comparison. While heating one end of the sample, high-resolution thermometers are used to measure thermal resistance to the heat flow. With various sizes of confinement channels and a broad pressure range, BEST provides extensive data for study.

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