Giant Vortex Clusters in a Two-Dimensional Quantum Fluid

Creating giant vortex clusters by stirring a Bose-Einstein condensate


Adding energy to a system through transient stirring usually leads to more disorder. In contrast, point-like vortices in a bounded two-dimensional fluid are predicted to reorder above a certain energy, forming persistent vortex clusters. In this study, we experimentally realize these vortex clusters in a planar superfluid: a 87Rb Bose-Einstein condensate confined to an elliptical geometry. We demonstrate that the clusters persist for long time periods, maintaining the superfluid system in a high-energy state far from global equilibrium. Our experiments explore a regime of vortex matter at negative absolute temperatures and have relevance for the dynamics of topological defects, two-dimensional turbulence, and systems such as helium films, nonlinear optical materials, fermion superfluids, and quark-gluon plasmas.