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'Cold Atom Laboratory' Designed To Freeze Gas Atoms To A Billionth Of A Degree Above Absolute Zero And It's Going To Space

First Posted: Mar 07, 2017 03:10 AM EST

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory developed the Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL), which is conceptualized to generate the coldest temperatures in the universe. This could also help the scientists in examining the strange physics such as dark energy and gravity, among others.

The Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL) created instruments such as lasers, a vacuum chamber and an electromagnetic "knife." These are used to remove the energy of gas particles and slow them until they are nearly motionless.

Popular Mechanics reports that they lessen a handful gas atoms to temperatures only a few billionths of a degree above absolute zero. This is about over 100 million times colder than the depths of space.

CAL project scientist Robert Thompson of JPL said that studying these hyper-cold atoms could reshape their understanding of matter and fundamental nature of gravity. He further said that the experiments they do with the Cold Atom Lab will give them insight into gravity and dark energy, which are some of the most pervasive forces in the universe.

CAL is now in its final stages of assembly at JPL. It is slated to fly into space this coming August aboard the SpaceX CRS-12.

Meanwhile, Phys.org reports that five scientific teams are planning to conduct experiments using the Cold Atom Laboratory. Among them is the Nobel Prize winner Eric Cornell of the University of Colorado, Boulder and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. He developed the Bose-Einstein condensates in a lab setting in 1995.

Bose-Einstein condensates are considered "superfluid." It is a kind of fluid with zero viscosity, where atoms move without friction as a solid substance. In Cold Atom Laboratory, the atoms are cooled to extreme temperatures and form into Bose-Einstein condensates.

The results of the planned experiments could enhance the technologies. These include the quantum computers, sensors and atomic clocks, which are used in spacecraft navigation.

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