NASA will launch an ice box to the International Space Station this summer in an attempt to generate the coldest place in the universe. The box features a vacuum chamber, electromagnetic knife, and lasers. The goal is to slow down gas particles so that they are nearly motionless. The temperature will hover around a billionth of a degree above absolute zero. This will be 100 million times colder than the deepest parts of space. A project scientist at the Cold Atom Laboratory provides more insights into the experiment:
Studying these hyper-cold atoms could reshape our understanding of matter and the fundamental nature of gravity. The experiments we’ll do with the Cold Atom Lab will give us insight into gravity and dark energy—some of the most pervasive forces in the universe.
At absolute zero, matter becomes something known as the Bose-Einstein condensate. At this level, quantum physics rules are observed. Matter behaves like waves instead of particles. Waveforms will form at this point.
On Earth, the Bose-Einstein condensate exists for only a fraction of a second, because of gravity. NASA hopes to have more luck in space. On the ISS, the condensate may last up to 10 seconds and with adjustments in the lab, it may last for hundreds of seconds.
Another property of the Bose-Einstein condensate is that it has zero viscosity and all the atoms move without friction. It’s considered as a superfluid. Here’s more info from the Cold Atom Lab project manager:
If you had superfluid water and spun it around in a glass, it would spin forever. There’s no viscosity to slow it down and dissipate the kinetic energy. If we can better understand the physics of superfluids, we can possibly learn to use those for more efficient transfer of energy.