The Coolest Spot in the Universe
The Atom Interferometer enabled flight vacuum assembly has arrived at JPL for system integration and test. This unit will use laser pulses to split and recombine atomic wave packets and to measure the quantum interference of the matter waves. The purpose is to demonstrate the technology and techniques needed for these space-based sensors to probe for dark matter and to test quantum mechanics and Einstein's equivalence principle.
CAL Project manager Dr. Anita Sengupta and Ground Test Bed Lead Dr. David Aveline are standing next to the assembled flight vacuum chamber in the clean room. Inside this chamber precisely aligned laser beams are used to cool atoms to just above absolute zero. Read More >
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.