Wednesday, June 10, 2015

At near absolute zero, molecules may start to exhibit exotic states of matter

MIT researchers have successfully cooled a gas of sodium potassium (NaK) molecules to a temperature of 500 nanokelvin. In this artist's illustration, the NaK molecule is represented with frozen spheres of ice merged together: the smaller sphere on the left represents a sodium atom, and the larger sphere on the right is a potassium atom. Illustration: Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT

MIT team creates ultracold molecules


The air around us is a chaotic superhighway of molecules whizzing through space and constantly colliding with each other at speeds of hundreds of miles per hour. Such erratic molecular behavior is normal at ambient temperatures.

But scientists have long suspected that if temperatures were to plunge to near absolute zero, molecules would come to a screeching halt, ceasing their individual chaotic motion and behaving as one collective body. This more orderly molecular behavior would begin to form very strange, exotic states of matter — states that have never been observed in the physical world.

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