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Scientists Freeze Molecule to Almost Absolute Zero

Scientists Freeze Molecule to Almost Absolute Zero
Image credit: MIT

Thanks to lasers and some advanced techniques, a team of MIT scientists has managed to freeze a molecule to 500 nanokelvins: a temp that's nearly absolute zero. Not zero degrees Fahrenheit, but absolute zero, which is around -459.67 degrees F -- a lot colder than the cold parts of space.

See, in their natural state, molecules vibrate, rotate and generally move in a frantic pace like interns working for Miranda Priestly. By cooling them down to the point that they're barely able to move, scientists can form previously unseen states of matter.

According to MIT physics professor Martin Zwierlein: "...with ultracold molecules, you can get a huge variety of different states of matter, like superfluid crystals, which are crystalline, yet 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."

For this particular study, the scientists decided to freeze clouds of sodium and potassium using lasers and evaporative cooling. Then they glued individual atoms together to form sodium potassium (NaK) molecules, which were again subject to laser beams to effectively suck out 7,500 Kelvins of energy in all. To get those superfluid crystals Zwierlein mentioned, though, the scientists have to go even lower than 500 nanokelvins.

They also have to experiment with other atoms and molecules, but this is definitely a promising start.