One billionth of degree above the absolute zero. More than 100 000 000 times colder than the depths of space (a place already very cold).
It is like to say that this is the coldest point we might have ever seen. And, since temperature is energy and energy is matter, it is like to explore the deepest structure of energy and matter.
At these extremely low temperature matter behaves like waves more than particle; the state is known as the Bose-Einstein condensate. Ok, this is new, but not brand new.
Here, on the Earth I mean, we already succeeded to create such a state, but the boring gravity affecting everything causes matter to maintain such characteristics only for a fraction of second before to settle atoms towards the ground.
Well, the natural evolution of such experiment is to pack everything and send the equipment to the International Space Station (ISS); at least we know how it can be used besides for taking pictures…
The Cold Atom Lab (CAL) experiment is scheduled to be flown on the ISS in August 2017. The box features a powerful laser, a vacuum chamber and an electromagnetic “knife” to cancel out any gas particles energy. This correspond to having and almost motionless matter in absence of gravity, i.e. a Bose-Einstein condensate lasting for tens/hundreds of seconds!
Of course nothing is done for pure research and the technical repercussion of this experiment are on quantum computers and atomic clocks. The Bose-Einstein condensate state is also a “fluid” with zero viscosity (no viscosity means that there is nothing to slow it down dissipating the kinetic energy) thus also its possible applications on energy transmission can take advantage from this kind of experiments.
All in all, although the space is already very cold, making a tiny box even colder up there helps us here to imagine new concepts and applications. Technology evolving through experiments exploiting what we already have.
Arrangiarsi: taking out the most from everything.