It has never been so cold in Africa
At the Centre for Quantum Technology of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, we have trapped and cooled rubidium atoms to a few millionths of a degree from absolute zero, that is, -273 degrees Celsius. This is much cooler than any naturally occurring temperatures on Earth, cooler than interstellar space, and cooler than what is possible with any conventional cooling techniques.
This extremely low temperature has been achieved in the first realization of a Magneto-Optical Trap (MOT) on the African continent. The atoms are collected and cooled with finely tuned and precisely aligned lasers, in conjunction with gradient magnetic fields in an Ultra-High Vacuum system.
The MOT at the Centre for Quantum Technology (CQT) will be an important tool in research related to quantum information processing, i.e. quantum computing. A MOT is also an important tool in many other areas of current research. Cooling with lasers has made it possible to make better atomic clocks, study novel quantum phases and cold collisions, and improved measurements in fundamental research such as CP-violation in particle physics.
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