Unraveling the Mysteries of the Cosmos Through Quantum Gas

Quantum gas is described as an atomic gas that has a sub-absolute zero temperature in the Kelvin scale. It is known to mimic dark energy and aids in the development of negative Kelvin materials while also helping scientists unravel the mysteries of the cosmos. (Image: via   pixabay  /  CC0 1.0)
Quantum gas is described as an atomic gas that has a sub-absolute zero temperature in the Kelvin scale. It is known to mimic dark energy and aids in the development of negative Kelvin materials while also helping scientists unravel the mysteries of the cosmos. (Image: via pixabay / CC0 1.0)

Quantum gas is described as an atomic gas that has a sub-absolute zero temperature in the Kelvin scale. It is known to mimic dark energy and aids in the development of negative Kelvin materials while also helping scientists unravel the mysteries of the cosmos. And one doctoral candidate from Leibniz University in Germany, Dennis Becker, recently tested the quantum gas in space.

The experiment

In 2017, the MAIUS-1 rocket took off into space with a payload to study the Bose-Einstein condensate, a quantum gas so cold that it starts displaying weird quantum effects on macroscopic scales. The experiment lasted for six minutes in space, during which the Bose-Einstein condensate was created. After the payload made it back to Earth, Dennis’ team retrieved the chip containing the Bose-Einstein condensate and studied the 110 experiments they had conducted on it.

“Past experiments have created zero-gravity conditions to test Bose-Einstein condensates by dropping them from high up. But drop towers offer only a few seconds of microgravity. This time around, the chip containing the Bose-Einstein condensate experienced six minutes of microgravity at 243 kilometers (151 miles) above the Earth’s surface. The 110 automated measurements characterized the formation process of the condensate formed as well as its size, among plenty of other aspects,” according to Gizmodo.

After the payload made it back to Earth, Dennis’ team retrieved the chip containing the Bose-Einstein condensate and studied the 110 experiments they had conducted on it. (Image: DLR / CC0 1.0)

Dennis hopes that the results from the experiment will contribute to the development of highly-sensitive, ultra-precise sensors that can identify minute changes in gravity, even those produced by gravitational waves. Even a passing dark matter particle may be measured by the sensor. Several scientists have applauded the team for having pulled off 110 experiments in under six minutes. The researchers are planning to launch MAIUS-2 and 3 very soon, using Bose-Einstein condensate as a sensor to test one of the key principles of general relativity — the equivalence principle.

Quantum gas and phases

Quantum gas is being widely studied at various research centers throughout the world because of the incredible possibilities it offers. There are scientists aboard the International Space Station (ISS) who are working on making Bose-Einstein condensate in space for other physicists to study.

Meanwhile, a team of researchers from Germany has given us new information on quantum gases. In a paper published in the journal Nature Materials in July, physicists from ETH Zurich describe their experimental platform used to study the quantum gas’ complex phases characterized by two order parameters.  

In the experiment, the physicists trapped a Bose-Einstein condensate right at the intersection of two optical cavity modes. The condensate crystallized in two different patterns, each one of them being associated with a different order parameter. Both orders competed with each other. The system was forced into one of the two patterns or eventually led to a new coupled phase that gave rise to a complex spatial arrangement.

The condensate crystallized in two different patterns, each one of them being associated with a different order parameter. (Image: phys.org / CC0 1.0)

“Whereas these particular phases have no known direct role in practical materials, the approach established with these experiments can be modified in the future to simulate properties of materials that are technologically relevant. In particular, in cuprate high-temperature superconductors, coupled spin and charge order are known to have an important, yet not fully understood, role,” according to Phys.Org.

The study is expected to offer a unique tool to explore quantum gas phases beginning from a “clean” quantum system with highly tunable and controlled interactions. 

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