Magnon Bose-Einstein Condensate as a Probe of Topological Superfluid

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


Helium stays in liquid form down to absolute zero temperature. Since the effects of quantum mechanics become particularly evident at low temperatures, helium is an ideal system for experimental studies of macroscopic quantum phenomena. One of the most remarkable of these is the transition into zero-viscosity superfluid phase. In case of fermionic helium-3 isotope, this transition occurs at temperatures below 0.003 K.

In the low-temperature B phase of superfluid helium-3, the transport of both mass and magnetization occur without losses. The spin superfluidity gives rise to spontaneous coherent long-living precession of magnetization observed in nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) experiments. The coherent precession can be described in terms of spin-wave excitations, or in the language of Bose-Einstein condensation (BEC) of magnon quasiparticles. In this dissertation, we trap these quasiparticle condensates at selected locations in the superfluid order parameter texture, using both textural and magnetic energies for confinement. The sample is cooled to ultra-low temperatures in rotating adiabatic demagnetization refrigerator.

Careful characterization of the creation and the decay of the trapped magnon BEC reveals nonhydrodynamic spin diffusion as the main temperature-dependent source of relaxation. Using this property, we suggest magnon-BEC-based microkelvin thermometry in helium-3 systems. Both the relaxation rate and the precession frequency of magnetization are sensitive to changes in the properties of the surrounding superfluid at the lowest temperatures and clearly more informative than conventional NMR techniques which freeze to a temperature-independent state. Here we have used the magnon BECs to detect quantized vortices, gravity waves on the free surface of superfluid, and long-living textural defects related to the creation and the annihilation of phase boundaries. We have also found enhanced zero-temperature relaxation of magnon BEC due to free surface. We propose that it originates from the bound quasiparticle states at the surface which supposedly have Majorana nature following from the topology of helium-3.

Owing to diverse properties, superfluid helium-3 serves as an experimentally accessible model system for phenomena elsewhere in physics. We have found self-trapping of magnons towards a box-like confinement potential via coupling with the order parameter which resembles the Q-ball in quantum field theories. We have also observed the interplay between three low-energy spin-wave modes, one of which acquires mass due to spin-orbit interaction and becomes similar to the light Higgs particle considered in extensions of Standard Model.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University School of Science
  • Hakonen, Pertti, Supervisor, External person
  • Eltsov, Vladimir, Advisor, External person
Award date17 Jun 2016
Place of PublicationHelsinki, Finland
Print ISBNs978-952-60-6824-4
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-6825-1
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2016


  • helium-3
  • superfluid
  • magnon quasiparticle excitation
  • Bose-Einstein condensation
  • spin diffusion
  • free surface
  • surface wave
  • quantized vortex
  • Majorana bound state
  • spin-orbit interaction
  • ultra-low temperature thermometry

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