What happens if we cool an object down to the lowest possible temperature allowed by the laws of physics? More precisely, to the lowest temperature according to quantum mechanics, those very odd laws that govern the ‘tiny Universe’, including how the atoms and molecules from our bodies interact and behave. That’s what a team of scientists had been wondering, so they put their thoughts into action to see what outcome could possibly emerge.
In a typical material, its temperature is given by the number of atoms that jostle around. But when it comes to nanoparticles, an effective temperature is defined based on the motion of the entire nanoparticle, and in this case, it’s made up of about 100 million atoms.
Twelve-millionths of a kelvin is the temperature resulted
Markus Aspelmeyer from the University of Vienna and his colleagues reduced the motion of the nanoparticle to the ground state by levitating it with a laser. The resulting state is a minimum level set by the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, which says that there’s a limit to how precise you can simultaneously know both the position and momentum of an object. This is one of the numerous weird laws from quantum mechanics.
While the findings provide some level of hope for humanity to understand the realm of quantum mechanics better, scientists aim to use cooled nanoparticles for studying how gravity behaves for quantum objects.
A nanoparticle is defined as a particle of matter that has a diameter between 1 and 100 nanometres (nm) wide. The term is sometimes used for larger particles that are up to 500 nm or tubes and fibers that are less than 100 nm in only two directions. At the lowest range, metal particles that are smaller than 1 nm are called atom clusters instead.
The physicists involved published their results in Science.