Exotic “second sound” phenomenon observed in pencil lead

Thursday, March 14, 2019 - 13:30 in Physics & Chemistry

The next time you set a kettle to boil, consider this scenario: After turning the burner off, instead of staying hot and slowly warming the surrounding kitchen and stove, the kettle quickly cools to room temperature and its heat hurtles away in the form of a boiling-hot wave. We know heat doesn’t behave this way in our day-to-day surroundings. But now MIT researchers have observed this seemingly implausible mode of heat transport, known as “second sound,” in a rather commonplace material: graphite — the stuff of pencil lead. At temperatures of 120 kelvin, or -240 degrees Fahrenheit, they saw clear signs that heat can travel through graphite in a wavelike motion. Points that were originally warm are left instantly cold, as the heat moves across the material at close to the speed of sound. The behavior resembles the wavelike way in which sound travels through air, so scientists have dubbed this exotic...

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