Using lasers in space, NASA is about to reach the lowest temperature in the universe

NASA is sending a device to the International Space Station (ISS) that will create a point ten billion times colder than the vacuum of space.

It's called Cold Atom Laboratory, a chest-sized device aboard the Cygnus rocket of the Orbital ATK, and it will help scientists observe the strange quantum properties of ultra cold atoms.


A combination of lasers and magnets will be used to cool and decelerate a cloud of atoms to only a fraction above the Absolute zero, also known as zero Kelvin (-273.15 Celsius or -459.67 Fahrenheit).

Absolute zero is the coldest temperature that can be reached in the Universe, and it is impossible to reach because at that point, atoms stop moving. However, the Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL) can cool clouds of atoms to only one tenth of the absolute zero, which causes them to move extremely slowly, manifesting microscopic quantum phenomena.

These clouds are called Bose-Einstein condensates. They can be created on Earth, but gravity is a problem: they are dragged down very quickly, so they can only be observed for a fraction of a second. The microgravity environment on board the ISS will overcome this problem, allowing Earth scientists to operate the equipment remotely to observe atoms for up to 10 seconds.

If we can better understand the physics of superfluids, we can possibly learn to use them for a more efficient energy transfer.

Video: NASA Space Station Instrument Will Be the Coldest Thing in the Universe (March 2020).