knot, mathematics, math, physics, u chicago, chicago, hydrofoilEver try to tie a smoke ring in a knot? Seems impossible, right? Well, researchers at the University of Chicago have done something very similar by using 3D-printed hydrofoil structures.

Over 100 years ago, Lord Kelvin proposed that atoms were composed of knotted vortices. Even though Lord Kelvin’s ideas about atomic structure were proved incorrect, mathematicians and physicists have found value in researching “knotted systems.”  However, until now, creating knotted vortices had proved impossible. Enter Professor William Irvine and post-doc Dustin Kleckner.

“The duo overcame their experimental difficulties by designing and fabricating various hydrofoils (wings used in water) on a 3-D printer. They tried approximately 30 different shapes before they successfully created the desired vortices. When accelerated in a water tank at more than 100 G, hydrofoils leave behind bubble-traced vortex loops, whose dynamics the researchers recorded with a high-speed camera.”

Aside from being a phenomenal trick, the knotting of vortices may lead to a better understanding of complex subjects like solar flares and the behavior of neutron stars.

Watch a Video of the Team’s Research:

Images and Video Courtesy of Robert Kozloff & U Chicago

 

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