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Mar 15, 2017 05:19 AM EDT

NASA Artificially Builds The Coldest Zone In The Universe

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NASA's ICON satellite to study ionosphere, space weather

NASA announced that it is going to build the Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL) which will be coldest zone in the world with a temperature. This area will produce the rare form of matter called the Bose-Einstein condensate.

The zone, which has the size of two large filing cabinets, will be built in the International Space Station (ISS) and will be launched in August. It will have a 100 pico-Kelvin temperature once activated. If you have no idea how cold that is, it's zero Kelvin or one billionth of a degree above absolute zero.

According to Anita Sengupta, lead aerospace engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Labotatory (JPL), this is the required environment for them to create the rare form of matter called the Bose-Einstein condensate, which was predicted by Albert Einstein and Satyendra Bose and was finally produced by two scientists - Eric Cornell and Carl Wieman - in 1995.

In this form, the separated atoms and subatomic particles merge together to become a single quantum mechanical entity and can only be described by a wave function. Atoms in the Bose-Einstein form are the complete opposite of the ones found in plasma. The latter are hot and very excited but the ones in Bose-Einstein barely move and are super cold.

Because the temperature to achieve this is ultra-cold, the atoms in the BEC clump together and barely stripped of all their energy. At this point, they become the same level and have the same qualities, like clones. As they become alike, these atoms merge to eventually evolve into one super atom.

Why do the scientists create such type of matter?

Being able to observe how these atoms behave in such a unique environment will provide insights to scientists into developing new technologies, superfluidity, and the fundamentals of physics.

One of these future technologies is quantum computing. In order to successfully create a viable quantum computer, scientists need to begin with qubits that are in the same state. BEC can provide insight to that because it consists macroscopic atoms which are in the same quantum state.

Another possible application is in the improvement of precision measurement, especially other ways how to manipulate thermal atoms using these systems.

As Sengupta said, there is no telling what other technologies can be created based on these observations. However, that is what it is all about - create, understand, and the technology applications will follow.

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