Atoms move a million times slower – it takes them half a minute to move one inch! Only half-a-billionth of a degree above absolute zero! MIT scientists have cooled a sodium gas to the lowest temperature ever recorded – only half-a-billionth of a degree above absolute zero.
At room temperature, atoms move at the speed of a jet airplane. At the new record-low temperature, atoms are a million times slower – it takes them half a minute to move one inch. “In an ordinary container, particles bounce off the walls. In our container, atoms are repelled by magnetic fields,” explained physics graduate student Aaron Leanhardt.
For reaching the record-low temperatures, the MIT researchers invented a novel way of confining atoms, which they call a “Gravito-magnetic trap.” As the name indicates, the magnetic fields act together with gravitational forces to keep the atoms trapped.
Using highly focused, single frequency lasers it is possible to cool the single sodium atoms, negating their thermal vibrations by inducing electronic transitions which effectively “Pushes” them into place.
This brings the atoms down to millikelivn temperatures.