General, Research, Technology

A strange form of matter has been created on board the ISS in the space laboratory

Did you know that at the International Spacestation (ISS) is the Cold Atom Laboratory (LHA) - one of the coldest places in the famous Universe? LHA began its work in June 2018 and is the first installation in orbit producing whole clouds of “ultracold” atoms, the temperature of which can reach a fraction of a degree above absolute zero, -273.15ºC - the minimum temperature limit that a physical body in the Universe can have. Scientists started all this cosmic disgrace, of course, for the sake of quantum physics. So, after two years of continuous work, they managed to create a strange quantum matter, the existence of which was predicted more than a century ago.

One of the coldest places in the universe aboard the ISS

The four states of matter are liquid, gas, solid, and plasma.

What happens in a cold atom lab?

For 25 years, physicists have used the exotic state of matter, consisting of ultracold atoms, to study quantum behavior on a macroscopic scale. But this was only possible on board the ISS. In almost two years of LHA, NASA physicists have created the fifth state of matter is the Bose-Einstein condensatewhose existence was predicted by Albert Einstein and Indian mathematician Satyendra Nat Bose almost a hundred years ago.

Condensate allows scientists to explore in detail the secrets of quantum physics: when atoms cool off from such a low temperature (–273.15 ° C), they can form a single macroscopic quantum object - ultracold atomic clouds, which begin to resemble one “superat”, rather than a group of individual atoms.

In simple words, chilleda decent number of atoms are in the lowest possible quantum states - that is why quantum effects begin to manifest themselves at the macroscopic level. The authors of the scientific work believe that the Bose-Einstein condensate will allow them to study the little-known microworld. The results, published in the journal Nature, prove that microgravity (permanent weightlessness) of the LHA allows scientists to create phenomena that cannot be created on Earth.

According to Nature, the condensate is probably hiddenanswers to the most mysterious energy in the Universe - dark energy, which is responsible for its accelerating expansion. Read more about the search for dark energy in our material.

The coolest lab in the universe tuned to discover the quantum world

Fifth state of matter

Agree, the creation of the fifth state of matter inspace - an important event for world science. But how did scientists succeed? To obtain condensate, the researchers used rubidium-87 atoms, lasers and high vacuum, which existed for more than a second at 200 trillion fractions of a degree above absolute zero, along with some of the most successful experiments on Earth. In future experiments, the team plans to drop to a record 20 trillionths of a degree and create condensate that can last up to 5 seconds.

The creation of a Bose-Einstein condensate from rubidium (a soft metal resembling potassium) has become possible exclusively under microgravity conditions. For the first time, scientists managed to get rubidium-87 atoms in 1995using the invented in the 1980s method of laser cooling and magnetic evaporative cooling.

Quantum physics is very, very strange, but it is being actively studied. To not miss interesting discoveries in this area, subscribe to our channel in Google News

This is what the Cold Atom Laboratory looks like onboard the ISS in June 2018.

It should be noted that the condensate obtained is -not the first created in microgravity. A number of previous experiments have shown how this phase of matter behaves while in zero gravity. But LHA is the first laboratory that exists in this environment all the time. Her success was not expected, given that the laboratory itself is the size of an average dishwasher.

Moreover, the scope of the obtainedBose-Einstein condensate and its explanation varies depending on the search for dark energy, gravitational waves, as well as tests of the general theory of relativity, etc. Nevertheless, the importance of this discovery can hardly be overestimated.

What experiments are carried out on board the ISS?

In fact, in space they spend a hugethe number of scientific experiments, each of which is unique and allows you to better know the Universe and ourselves. So, one of the main directions of space research today is growing on the ISS a large number of various plants. For the entire duration of the station’s operation, the astronauts grew barley, peas, radishes, wheat, salad crops, etc. Cancer and Parkinson’s disease are also constantly being studied.

You will be interested: Why did scientists send marijuana to the ISS?

In addition, the Mayo Clinic project cultivatesstem cells - this will allow scientists to understand why some types of cancer are resistant to chemotherapy. to improve our understanding of cancer resistance to chemotherapy. Read about the six most interesting scientific experiments on board the International Space Station in the material of my colleague Ilya Hel.