SIGNIFICANT EVENTS - SCIENCE EVENTS
09/19/03

MIT Group Creates Gas at Coldest Temperature Ever Recorded

NASA-funded researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have cooled sodium gas to the lowest temperature ever recorded -- one-half-billionth degree above absolute zero. Absolute zero is the point where no further cooling is possible.

This new temperature is six times lower than the previous record, and marks the first time that a gas was cooled below 1 nanokelvin. At absolute zero (-273 Celsius or -460 Fahrenheit) all motion stops, except for tiny atomic vibrations, since the cooling process has extracted all energy that is removable from the particles. By improving their cooling methods, the MIT scientists have succeeded in getting closer to absolute zero.

MIT group creates gas at coldest temp

Dr. Wolfgang Ketterle, a Fundamental Physics PI and co-leader of the research team, stated "To go below 1 nanokelvin is like running a mile below four minutes for the first time." "Ultra-low temperature gases could lead to vast improvements in precision measurements by allowing better atomic clocks and sensors for gravity and rotation," said Dr. David E. Pritchard, another MIT physics professor who is a pioneer in atom optics and atom interferometry, and is a co-leader of the team.

A paper announcing this advance appeared in the Sept. 12 issue of Science. (http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/short/301/5639/1513) As well, NASA prepared a press release for this achievement that appears on the web at http://spaceresearch.nasa.gov/news/news.html#308.



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