The coldest object on Earth has just been created by scientists in Italy. Researchers from the Instituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (INFN) was able to create a chunk of copper chilled to 6 millikelvins, or six-thousands of a degree above absolute zero. According to LiveScience, this is the closest a substance of this mass and volume has come close to an absolute zero, providing insights into the physics of extreme temperatures.
To chill the object towards the record temperature, scientists placed the copper chunk inside a cryostat, a device that maintains extremely low temperatures for substances and samples. Scientists have confirmed that the particular cryostat where the copper chunk was deposited is the first one created to keep temperatures extremely close to absolute zero.
Carlo Bucci, a local scientist who helped build the special cryostat, told LiveScience about the difficulties of constructing the device and achieving their record goal for the coldest object on Earth.
“The main difficulty of this project was the technological challenge of the cryostat. We spent 10 years designing, realizing and testing the system.”
The creation of the coldest object on Earth wasn’t the main goal for scientists involved in the project. LiveScience reports that it is just the first step towards a more rigorous experiment that involves using the special cryostat as a particle detector. The experiment, called the Cryogenic Underground Observatory for Rare Events, is currently being set up by Bucci and his team. According to him, the research aims to reveal more about the construct of the subatomic particle known as a neutrino. They are also hoping to find why there is much more matter than antimatter in the universe.
The experiment would be trying to observe a rare event called the neutrinoless double-beta decay, a phenomenon when antineutrinos decay into regular neutrinos. Bucci and the scientists hypothesize that these neutrinos are possibly acting as their own antiparticles. This might be the explanation behind the fact that the universe has more matter than antimatter.
None of these speculations can be confirmed without the proper set-up and, although one of the parts of the main equipment has already been created, the experiment wouldn’t be running until next year.
The hottest thing on Earth, on the other hand, was created by scientists in 2012 at the National Accelerator Laboratory in San Mateo, California. Using one of the world’s most powerful lasers, scientists were able to heat up an object to 3.6 million degrees Fahrenheit.
[Image from Instituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (INFN)/LiveScience]