Space Station Instrument Will Be the Coldest Thing in the Universe

February 25th, 2014 § 0 comments

It’s impossible to know what kind of impact this will have on physics and ultimately technology, but the potential is huge. What we do know, however, is that this Cold Atom Laboratory is pretty freaking amazing.

In 2016, a new instrument due to be added to the ISS — NASA’s Cold Atom Laboratory — will become the coldest location in the known universe. The instrument is capable of achieving a temperature of 100 Pico-kelvin, or one ten-billionth of a degree above absolute zero. For perspective, the average temperature of space is a balmy 2.7 Kelvin, or -454.81 degrees Fahrenheit.

Back in 1995 researchers discovered that if you combine a few million rubidium-87 atoms and cool them to near zero kelvin they will form into a single wave of matter. Known as a Bose–Einstein condensate this is essential quantum phenomena happening at the macroscopic scale. The wave patterns generated by the CAL will be about as thick as a human hair; with that a creature of quantum physics will have entered the observable realm.

More from NASA in this video:


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