Scientists achieve sub-absolute zero for the first time


Brittany Hillen

It sounds like the stuff of science fiction, yet it is completely true: scientists have managed to a sub-absolute zero temperature for the first time ever. The temperature was achieved using a quantum gas composed of potassium atoms. With a magnetic field tweak, the temp dropped a “few billionths of a Kelvin” under absolute-zero.

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The reversed magnetic field in combination with lasers were used to keep the potassium atoms arranged in a lattice formation. The magnetic field alteration caused the atoms to attract, where in a normal arrangement they would repel. Ludwig Maximilian University’s Ulrich Schneider perhaps states it best in the Nature report.

“This suddenly shifts the atoms from their most stable, lowest-energy state to the highest possible energy state, before they can react. It’s like walking through a valley, then instantly finding yourself on the mountain peak.” What are the benefits of this achievement? This is the foundation upon which quantum inventions can be formed.

Some say this could lead to the formation of new types of matter. High-energy states are stabilized in sub-absolute zero temps, for example, while possibly reacting in non-standard ways. Says Achim Rosch, a theoretical physicist, atom clouds could drift upwards in what seems to be a violation of gravity. Likewise, the ultracold gas is said to mimic dark energy, with the almost-impossible state stabilizing atoms that would otherwise collapse.

[via Nature]

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