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What Happens if You Stir a Cup of Zero Viscosity Coffee?

May 2, 2017

Before we can address the question - "Can there be a coffee or liquid with zero viscosity coffee?", we must first lay the foundation of our understanding of viscosity. Viscosity is defined as the resistance of a fluid to flow and it comes from the friction of molecules as they move against each other within the fluid. We know that there is negative viscosity, but is having zero viscosity similar? All fluids have at least some resistance to flow. All fluids that is except super fluids.

Superfluidity (a state in which electrons and atoms, respectively, flow without resistance over great distances) was originally discovered in 1938 simultaneously in Moscow by Pyotr Kapitza and in Massachusetts, at the University of Cambridge, by John Allen and Don Misener who observed the phenomena in liquid helium. At about minus-271 °C, the behavior of liquid helium turns surreal—it becomes bosons. It follows Bose-Einstein statistics and  under certain circumstances, they condense in the state that possess the least amount of energy (zero or negative).


Fluids that demonstrate this "superfluidity" - known as superfluids - can be characterized by are a few very unique properties, including infinite thermal conductivity. Any volume of superfluid, no matter how large, will always be precisely the same temperature throughout.

Theoretically, superfluids also approach zero entropy—the lowest possible energy that a quantum mechanical physical system can have. This means that if you stir a cup of zero viscosity coffee, it will swirl for almost forever. This indicates that if you drink a cup of zero viscosity coffee, it will also give you zero energy. Why is this relevant you may ask, well it may not be - unless you were somehow presented with a cup of zero viscosity coffee. Superfluidity is most relevant when applied to the development of theory and understanding high-temperature superconductivity.


Viscosity Basics

Learn more about viscosity basics in our back to basics webinar series


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