Understanding quantum dynamics in a two-dimensional Bose–Einstein condensate relies on understanding how vortices interact with each other microscopically and with local imperfections of the potential which confines the condensate. Within a system consisting of many vortices, the trajectory of a vortex–antivortex pair is often scattered by a third vortex, an effect previously characterised. However, the natural question remains as to how much of this effect is due to the velocity induced by this third vortex and how much is due to the density inhomogeneity which it introduces. In this work, we describe the various qualitative scenarios which occur when a vortex–antivortex pair interacts with a smooth density impurity whose profile is identical to that of a vortex but lacks the circulation around it.

We model the superfluid flow of liquid helium over the rough surface of a wire (used to experimentally generate turbulence) profiled by atomic force microscopy. Numerical simulations of the Gross-Pitaevskii equation reveal that the sharpest features in the surface induce vortex nucleation both intrinsically (due to the raised local fluid velocity) and extrinsically (providing pinning sites to vortex lines aligned with the flow). Vortex interactions and reconnections contribute to form a dense turbulent layer of vortices with a nonclassical average velocity profile which continually sheds small vortex rings into the bulk. We characterize this layer for various imposed flows. As boundary layers conventionally arise from viscous forces, this result opens up new insight into the nature of superflows.

Using the classical field method, we study numerically the characteristics and decay of the turbulent tangle of superfluid vortices which is created in the evolution of a Bose gas from highly nonequilibrium initial conditions. By analyzing the vortex line density, the energy spectrum, and the velocity correlation function, we determine that the turbulence resulting from this effective thermal quench lacks the coherent structures and the Kolmogorov scaling; these properties are typical of both ordinary classical fluids and of superfluid helium when driven by grids or propellers. Instead, thermal quench turbulence has properties akin to a random flow, more similar to another turbulent regime called ultraquantum turbulence, which has been observed in superfluid helium.

We use classical field simulations of the homogeneous Bose gas to study the breakdown of superflow past a cylindrical obstacle at finite temperature. Thermal fluctuations modify the vortex nucleation from the obstacle, replacing anti-parallel vortex lines (which would be nucleated at zero temperature) with wiggly lines and vortex rings. We find that the critical velocity for vortex nucleation decreases with increasing temperature, and scales with the speed of sound of the condensate, becoming zero at the critical temperature for condensation.

We reinvestigate numerically the classic problem of two-dimensional superfluid flow past an obstacle. Taking the obstacle to be elongated (perpendicular to the flow), rather than the usual circular form, is shown to promote the nucleation of quantized vortices, enhance their subsequent interactions, and lead to wakes which bear striking similarity to their classical (viscous) counterparts. Then, focussing on the recent experiment of Kwon et al. (arXiv:1403.4658) in a trapped condensate, we show that an elliptical obstacle leads to a cleaner and more efficient means to generate two-dimensional quantum turbulence.

In a recent experiment, Kwon et. al (arXiv:1403.4658 [cond-mat.quant-gas]) generated a disordered state of quantum vortices by translating an oblate Bose-Einstein condensate past a laser-induced obstacle and studying the subsequent decay of vortex number. Using mean-field simulations of the Gross-Pitaevskii equation, we shed light on the various stages of the observed dynamics. We find that the flow of the superfluid past the obstacle leads initially to the formation of a classical-like wake, which later becomes disordered. Following removal of the obstacle, the vortex number decays due to vortices annihilating and reaching the boundary. Our results are in excellent agreement with the experimental observations. Furthermore, we probe thermal effects through phenomenological dissipation.

We show that an elliptical obstacle moving through a Bose–Einstein condensate generates wakes of quantum vortices which resemble those of classical viscous flow past a cylinder or sphere. The role of ellipticity is to facilitate the interaction of the vortices nucleated by the obstacle. Initial steady symmetric wakes lose their symmetry and form clusters of like-signed vortices, in analogy to the classical Bénard–von Kármán vortex street. Our findings, demonstrated numerically in both two and three dimensions, confirm the intuition that a sufficiently large number of quanta of circulation reproduce classical physics.