MIT researchers have succeeded in cooling down a gas to a temperature extremely close to absolute zero, thus obtaining an actual sodium potassium molecule.
At normal temperatures, the air around us is filled with millions and millions of molecules that move around, vibrate and collide with each other continuously. They MIT research team wanted to intervene in this particular process and cool down the temperature to as much as current technology is capable of, so as to observe the outcome.
They were expecting that this vibration and constant moving would come to an end and that all the molecules would stop in a motionless state. They anticipated that this particular state would be filled with enormous potential, as it would provide the proper conditions for the creation of new physical states, that are yet unknown to the natural universe.
And so, they proceeded in creating a temperature that would be as close as possible to absolute zero by employing special lasers capable of extracting the energy from the atoms in the molecules. They performed this on a sodium-potassium (Na-K) gas.
The MIT team has successfully reached a temperature of 500 nanokelvins, which is just shy of absolute zero, which is a scientific breakthrough in itself. Exactly like they were expecting, the motion range of the molecules was also reduced to an absolute halt. They were motionless and they did not react with the molecules around them anymore.
Then, the scientists used lasers in order to cut the cold motionless molecules into individual atoms. Then, they proceeded to apply a powerful electromagnetic field to the cooled gas, in order to observe the its effects.
At normal temperatures, sodium and potassium atoms cannot bond, as they are both positively charged electrically. But it appears that, at a temperature so close to absolute zero, the bond between the two was in fact a possibility.
The brand new sodium-potassium molecule had a lifespan of 2,5 seconds, as it did not display the stability that molecules do at regular atmospheric temperatures.
Their discovery is a miracle of current science and technology and the first of its kind. The MIT research team has created the starting point for a long line of scientific work to be conducted on new molecules and new physical states that would be possible at a temperature of absolute zero.
Image Source: cdn.phys.org