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The Coolest Spot in the Universe

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Image of CAL
Sept, 1, 2016
The CAL Science Module and Science Instrument are in the final stages of assembly prior to System Test. The top image (science module) shows the vacuum chamber installed inside a magnetic shield. The bottom image (science instrument) is the quad locker that contains the electronics, lasers, and science module.


The quest for ever colder temperatures has been a major theme of physics for over a century, leading to such breakthroughs such as the discovery of superfluidity and superconductivity, and more recently to the development of laser cooling techniques and the observation of dilute atomic-gas Bose-Einstein Condensates (BEC) and super-fluid Fermi gases.

Beyond the great interest in the scientific aspects of these phenomena, these advances have also been at the heart of several important devices from superconducting quantum interference devices (SQUIDS) to lasercooled atomic clocks and atom interferometer-based sensors such as a gravity gradiometer for global gravity mapping.

The 2011 NRC Decadal Survey report, "Recapturing a Future for Space Exploration, Life and Physical Sciences Research for a New Era," recommended a set of high priority areas in Fundamental Physics which includes research related to the physics and applications of quantum gasses. The Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL) will be a multi-user facility designed to study ultra-cold quantum gases in the microgravity environment of the International Space Station (ISS). One of the primary goals of this facility will be to explore a previously inaccessible regime of extremely low temperatures where interesting and novel quantum phenomena can be expected.

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