A-B Transition in Superfluid 3He and Cosmological Phase Transitions

Mark Hindmarsh, J. A. Sauls, Kuang Zhang, S. Autti, Richard P. Haley, Petri Heikkinen, Stephan J. Huber, Lev V. Levitin, Asier Lopez-Eiguren, Adam J. Mayer, Kari Rummukainen, John Saunders, Dmitry Zmeev

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First-order phase transitions in the very early universe are a prediction of many extensions of the Standard Model of particle physics and could provide the departure from equilibrium needed for a dynamical explanation of the baryon asymmetry of the Universe. They could also produce gravitational waves of a frequency observable by future space-based detectors such as the Laser Interferometer Space Antenna. All calculations of the gravitational wave power spectrum rely on a relativistic version of the classical nucleation theory of Cahn-Hilliard and Langer, due to Coleman and Linde. The high purity and precise control of pressure and temperature achievable in the laboratory made the first-order A to B transition of superfluid 3He ideal for test of classical nucleation theory. As Leggett and others have noted, the theory fails dramatically. The lifetime of the metastable A phase is measurable, typically of order minutes to hours, far faster than classical nucleation theory predicts. If the nucleation of B phase from the supercooled A phase is due to a new, rapid intrinsic mechanism that would have implications for first-order cosmological phase transitions as well as predictions for gravitational wave production in the early universe. Here we discuss studies of the A-B phase transition dynamics in 3He, both experimental and theoretical, and show how the computational technology for cosmological phase transition can be used to simulate the dynamics of the A-B transition, support the experimental investigations of the A-B transition in the QUEST-DMC collaboration with the goal of identifying and quantifying the mechanism(s) responsible for nucleation of stable phases in ultra-pure metastable quantum phases.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Low Temperature Physics
Early online date8 Jun 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Jun 2024


  • helium-3
  • phase transitions
  • time-dependent Ginzburg-Landau equation
  • cosmology
  • early Universe
  • gravitational waves

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