|NASA will use CAL to better try to understand a highly misunderstood type of matter in space.|
Image Credit: NASA
NASA has a goal of creating what they say will be the coldest place in the entire universe, as it will help them to understand a property of matter that isn't well-understood. The project has been in development for a number of years, but soon it will come to fruition.
In the near future, an ice chest-sized box that NASA is calling the Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL) will be shipped to the International Space Station aboard a supply rocket.
CAL will come equipped with the tools it needs to hyper-chill gas atoms to just a billionth of a degree above absolute zero, which citing NASA, is about 100 million times colder than even the depths of outer space itself. It's worth noting that at absolute zero, atom activity reportedly freezes. The tools that will make this possible include a vacuum chamber, special lasers, and what NASA calls an “electromagnetic knife.” These tools will essentially slow the gas molecules that get trapped inside to a near-motionless state.
Since there is so much misunderstanding about how these kinds of hyper-chilled properties impact physics, this is a huge opportunity to fill a gap in mankind's expanding knowledge. The gasses that get chilled to these kinds of low temperatures really aren’t even gasses anymore – their atoms become arranged into a state of matter dubbed Bose-Einstein Condensate. This is a unique type of matter that we don’t fully understand yet. Scientists describe it as a type of “super fluid” that lacks any friction.
Lab Roots: NASA Aims to Create the Coldest Place in the Universe, Anthony Bouchard