The different superfluid phases of 3He are described by p-wave order parameters that include anisotropy axes both in the orbital and spin spaces. The anisotropy axes characterize the broken symmetries in these macroscopically coherent quantum many-body systems. The systems’ free energy has several degenerate minima for certain orientations of the anisotropy axes. As a result, spatial variation of the order parameter between two such regions, settled in different energy minima, forms a topological soliton. Such solitons can terminate in the bulk liquid, where the termination line forms a vortex with trapped circulation of mass and spin superfluid currents. Here we discuss possible soliton-vortex structures based on the symmetry and topology arguments and focus on the three structures observed in experiments: solitons bounded by spin-mass vortices in the B phase, solitons bounded by half-quantum vortices (HQVs) in the polar and polar-distorted A phases, and the composite defect formed by a half-quantum vortex, soliton and the Kibble-Lazarides-Shafi wall in the polar-distorted B phase. The observations are based on nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) techniques and are of three types: first, solitons can form a potential well for trapped spin waves, observed as an extra peak in the NMR spectrum at shifted frequency; second, they can increase the relaxation rate of the NMR spin precession; lastly, the soliton can present the boundary conditions for the anisotropy axes in bulk, modifying the bulk NMR signal. Owing to solitons’ prominent NMR signatures and the ability to manipulate their structure with external magnetic field, solitons have become an important tool for probing and controlling the structure and dynamics of superfluid 3He, in particular HQVs with core-bound Majorana modes.
- composite topological defect
- half-quantum vortex
- spontaneous symmetry breaking