Scientists Create World’s Coldest Molecules Ever

super cold molecules

It doesn’t get much cooler than this.

Physicists at MIT have created what may be world’s coldest chemically stable molecules, chilling sodium potassium gas to half of one millionth of a degree above absolute zero (defined as minus 273 degrees Celsius or minus 460 degrees Fahrenheit, or 0 on the Kelvin scale used by many scientists).

“Now we’re at 500 nanokelvins, which is already fantastic, we love it,” Dr. Martin Zwierlein, one of the physicists, said in a written statement. “A factor of 10 colder or so, and the music starts playing.”

Only chemically unstable molecules — which decay quickly — had been cooled to such a low temperature before, according to Zwierlein. His team’s feat breaks the previous record for coldest chemically stable molecules, which was set last year by a team of British, French and Austrian scientists, by a factor of at least 10.

Scientists create such “supercold” molecules in order to observe exotic forms of matter and quantum processes, according to Live Science.

Among the exotic forms of matter the researchers hope to see are so-called “superfluid crystals.” As Zwierlein explained in the statement, these crystalline forms “feel no friction, which is totally bizarre. This has not been observed so far, but predicted. We might not be far from seeing these effects, so we’re all excited.”

And ultracold molecules may also be used in quantum computing.

“The molecules could be used as quantum bits, where ‘0′ and ‘1′ is robustly encoded in the rotation of the molecules,” Zwierlien told The Huffington Post in an email. “Quantum computation itself would be extremely important for cryptography and to solve certain types of problems that simply take impossibly long on a ‘classical’ computer.”

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The molecules had the strongest “dipole moments” (arrows) — imbalances in —> Read More