The phase boundary between the quantum solid and the liquid phases of He4 is strongly modified in a porous material. However the phase diagram at very low temperatures remains unexplored. We have used a variable-volume experimental cell with optical access to visualize the crystallization of He4 in silica aerogels with independent control of the pressure and temperature. The onset of crystallization was investigated in two aerogel samples with differing porosity both by pressurization at constant temperature and by cooling at constant pressure. With isothermal pressurization we have established a low-temperature phase diagram for each aerogel, and we find that the equilibrium crystallization pressure is reduced with increasing aerogel porosity. Crystals also began to grow in the aerogel on cooling at fixed pressure below an onset temperature Tgrow. We found that below this temperature the crystallization rate increased with decreasing temperature. The aerogel in our cell was surrounded by bulk crystals of He4, and surprisingly Tgrow was found to be widely distributed when the surrounding bulk crystals were repressurized. In this experimental arrangement, crystallization within the aerogel on cooling requires mass flow from these exterior bulk crystals and is strongly influenced by the disordered structure at the interface between the bulk solid and the helium within the aerogel.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
- Condensed Matter Physics