Scientists have created strange quantum matter aboard the ISS

Scientists have created strange quantum matter aboard the ISS
Scientists have created strange quantum matter aboard the ISS
Anonim

Everything is weightless on the International Space Station. Atoms too. This makes it easier to study the strange quantum state of matter, known as the Bose-Einstein condensate, obtained at the space station.

“Studying the strange state of matter in orbit will help scientists understand fundamental physics and also enable new, more sensitive quantum measurements. The importance of the experiment cannot be overestimated,”says Lisa Werner of the German Institute for the Aerospace Center for Quantum Technology in Bremen.

Bose-Einstein condensation occurs when certain types of atoms are cooled to such low temperatures that they take on one combined state. “It’s like they come together and behave like one harmonious object,” explains physicist David Avelin of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. To create a strange state of matter in orbit, he and his colleagues designed the Cold Atom Laboratory, which was then taken to the space station.

In orbit, atoms are in free fall. It is microgravity that makes the space station ideal for studying Bose-Einstein condensates.

To obtain a Bose-Einstein condensate, atoms must be cooled and trapped in magnetic fields. On Earth, the trap must be very strong to keep the atoms from falling. In zero gravity, this is not required - the cloud of atoms easily expands and cools. This process allows the condensate to reach lower temperatures than on Earth.

Another advantage of microgravity is that measurements can be taken over long periods of time - 1.1 seconds. On Earth, the same observations are only possible within 40 milliseconds.

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