Indian American scientist Anita Sengupta’s Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL) in NASA will be heading to the International Space Station (ISS) to study what happens when atoms get really cold, according to an India Today report.
“The experiment uses lasers to slow atoms until they are motionless, cooling them to temperatures far below than what is possible on Earth. It could be 10 billion times colder than the vacuum of space, creating the coldest spot in the universe,” according to NASA.
From 2012 to 2017, Sengupta managed to lead the development of the Cold Atom Laboratory, a laser-cooling quantum physics facility for the ISS which is expected to give a major boost to a number of technologies including sensors, quantum computers and atomic clocks.
“CAL will make it possible to observe these ultra-cold atoms much longer in the microgravity environment,” NASA said, however “it is not changing the atmosphere inside the ISS, only within the self-contained experiment,” Sengupta said.
CAL uses a high-grade vacuum chamber and a series of powerful lasers to cool down the atoms to a billionth of a degree and it is going to the ISS to find the zero gravity it needs.
When it reaches the ISS, CAL will begin experimenting on Bose-Einstein condensate exotic forms of matter that appear only at extremely cold temperatures.
According to Sengupta these condensates can exist for up to a second on Earth before they collapse.
In space though, they last for up to 10 seconds or more which will give scientists a better opportunity to study them.
Sengupta is currently the Senior Vice President of Systems Engineering at Virgin Hyperloop One.
According to her website, Sengupta has been developing technologies that have enabled the exploration of Mars, asteroids and deep space, for the past 20 years as a rocket scientist and aerospace engineer.