Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Mechanism of Superfluid Flow


THEORIES of superfluidity usually assume the possibility of pure potential flow, provided that the flow velocity is less than some critical value (at which the creation of excitations first becomes possible)1,2. If we consider the flow of helium (at T = 0° K.), for example through a tube or along a Rollin film, it is implied that the boundary layer is slipping over the solid wall. However, the first few layers of helium atoms would not be expected to take part in this motion, as they are firmly bound by the van der Waals' attractions of the wall. The picture therefore has to be revised slightly to one in which there is a velocity discontinuity (that is, a vortex sheet) close to, but not coincident with, the solid wall. But a continuous vortex sheet implies a rather drastic change in the character of the wave function, over a distance of the order of one interatomic distance a, and hence implies a large energy per unit area, of the order of 2/ma4 (where m is the mass of an atom).

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. Landau, L. D., J. Phys. (U.S.S.R.), 5, 71 (1941); 11, 91 (1947). Feynman, R. P., Phys. Rev., 94, 262 (1954).

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. Feynman, R. P., “Low Temperature Physics”, 1, 17 (North Holland Pub. Co., Amsterdam, 1955). Onsager, L., Nuovo cim. (ix), 6, Supp., 249 (1949).

    Google Scholar 

  3. See, for example, Milne-Thomson, L. M., “Theoretical Hydrodynamics”, 340 (Macmillan, London, 1948).

    Google Scholar 

  4. Contrast with the conventional interpretations; see, for example, Atkins, K.R., “Liquid Helium”, 90 (Cambridge University Press, 1959).

    MATH  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

KUPER, C. Mechanism of Superfluid Flow. Nature 185, 832–833 (1960).

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

This article is cited by


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing