Scientists have set a new record for the lowest temperature ever recorded in a laboratory. They reached temperatures just 38 trillionths of a degree above absolute zero, which is -273.15 degrees Celsius. This was achieved by dropping the magnetized gas down from a 120-meter height.
A group of German researchers studied the quantum properties of the so-called fifth state of matter: Bose-Einstein condensate, a gas derivative that exists only in ultracold environments. While in this phase, matter begins to behave like one large atom, which makes it an especially attractive topic for quantum physicists studying the mechanics of subatomic particles.
Temperature is a measure of molecular vibrations: the more a set of molecules moves, the higher the overall temperature of a body or matter. Thus, absolute zero is the temperature at which molecules stop any movement – -273.15 ° C or zero on the Kelvin scale. As the temperature approaches absolute zero, strange things start to happen. For example, under these conditions, light becomes a liquid that can be poured into a container, according to a study published in 2017 in the journal Nature Physics. At NASA’s Cold Atoms Laboratory, researchers even witnessed the existence of atoms in two places at the same time.
As for the experiment of the German researchers, they captured a cloud of about 100,000 atoms of gaseous rubidium into a magnetic field inside a vacuum chamber. They then cooled the chamber to about 2 billionth of a degree Celsius above absolute zero, which would be a world record in itself. But it was not cold enough for the researchers, and they decided to simulate the conditions of deep space in order to cool it even more. The team placed their installation on the European Space Agency’s Bremen Tower at the Microgravity Research Center at the University of Bremen. The flight of the vacuum chamber in free fall with the rapid turning on and off of the magnetic field, which allows the Bose-Einstein condensate, unrestrained by gravity, to float, slowed down the molecular motion of rubidium atoms to almost zero. As a result, a temperature of only 38 trillion degrees above absolute zero was reached.
The previous temperature record was set by American scientists from the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Colorado. Then a temperature was reached 36 ppm above absolute zero. The coldest known place in the Universe is the Boomerang Nebula, which lies about 5,000 light-years from Earth. Its average temperature is -272 degrees Celsius.
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