Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

MIT team achieves coldest temperature ever

12.09.2003


MIT scientists have cooled a sodium gas to the lowest temperature ever recorded - only half-a-billionth of a degree above absolute zero. The work, to be reported in the Sept. 12 issue of Science, bests the previous record by a factor of six, and is the first time that a gas was cooled below 1 nanokelvin (one-billionth of a degree).



"To go below one nanokelvin is a little like running a mile under four minutes for the first time," said Nobel laureate Wolfgang Ketterle, co-leader of the team. Ketterle is MIT’s John D. MacArthur Professor of Physics.

"Ultra-low temperature gases could lead to vast improvements in precision measurements by allowing better atomic clocks and sensors for gravity and rotation," said David E. Pritchard, a pioneer in atom optics and atom interferometry and co-leader of the MIT group. He is the Cecil and Ida B. Green Professor of Physics.


The researchers also expect new phenomena to occur at such low temperatures involving, for example, how cold atoms interact with surfaces and how atoms move when they are confined to a narrow channel or layer. These gases form a remarkable state of matter called a quantum fluid, so studying their properties also provides new insights into the basic physics of matter.

At absolute zero (-273 degrees C or -460 degrees F), all atomic motion comes to a standstill since the cooling process has extracted all the particles’ energy. By improving cooling methods, scientists have succeeded in getting closer and closer to absolute zero. At room temperature, atoms move at the speed of a jet airplane. At the new record-low temperature, atoms are a million times slower -- it takes them half a minute to move one inch.

In 1995, a group at the University of Colorado at Boulder and an MIT group led by Ketterle cooled atomic gases to below one microkelvin (one-millionth of a degree above absolute zero). In doing so they discovered a new form of matter, the Bose-Einstein condensate, where the particles march in lockstep instead of flitting around independently. The discovery of Bose-Einstein condensates was recognized with the 2001 Nobel Prize in physics, which Ketterle shared with his Boulder colleagues Eric Cornell and Carl Wieman.

Since this breakthrough, many groups worldwide now routinely reach nanokelvin temperatures; the lowest temperature reported before now was 3 nanokelvin. The new record set by the MIT group is 500 picokelvin, or six times lower.

At such low temperatures, atoms cannot be kept in physical containers, because they would stick to the walls. Furthermore, no known container can be cooled to such temperatures. Therefore, the atoms are surrounded by magnets, which keep the gaseous cloud confined. "In an ordinary container, particles bounce off the walls. In our container, atoms are repelled by magnetic fields," explained physics graduate student Aaron Leanhardt.

For reaching the record-low temperatures, the MIT researchers invented a novel way of confining atoms, which they call a "gravito-magnetic trap." As the name indicates, the magnetic fields act together with gravitational forces to keep the atoms trapped.

All the researchers are affiliated with the MIT Department of Physics, the Research Laboratory of Electronics and the MIT-Harvard Center for Ultracold Atoms (funded by the National Science Foundation).

"It’s exciting to have the low-temperature record at MIT where we have one of the world centers for ultralow-temperature research," said Dan Kleppner, director of the Center for Ultracold Atoms and MIT’s Lester Wolfe Professor of Physics Emeritus.



Ketterle, Leanhardt and Pritchard co-authored the paper with physics graduate students Tom Pasquini and Yong-Il Shin, visiting student Andre Schirotzek, and postdoctoral associates Michele Saba and David Kielpinski. The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the Office of Naval Research, the Army Research Office and NASA

Elizabeth Thomson | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/www/

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Study offers new theoretical approach to describing non-equilibrium phase transitions
27.04.2017 | DOE/Argonne National Laboratory

nachricht SwRI-led team discovers lull in Mars' giant impact history
26.04.2017 | Southwest Research Institute

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Fighting drug resistant tuberculosis – InfectoGnostics meets MYCO-NET² partners in Peru

28.04.2017 | Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Wireless power can drive tiny electronic devices in the GI tract

28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering

Ice cave in Transylvania yields window into region's past

28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences

Nose2Brain – Better Therapy for Multiple Sclerosis

28.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>