(HPCWire) A new technique to super-cool molecules may enable more complex, molecule-based quantum computing. That technique has been found by MIT physicists who developed a way to cool molecules of sodium-lithium down to 200 billionths of a Kelvin, just a hair above absolute zero. They did so by applying a technique called collisional cooling, in which they immersed molecules of cold sodium-lithium in a cloud of even colder sodium atoms. The ultracold atoms acted as a refrigerant to cool the molecules even further.
the MIT researchers found that if sodium-lithium molecules and sodium atoms were made to spin in the same way, they could avoid self-destructing, and instead engaged in “good” collisions where the atoms took away the molecules’ energy, in the form of heat. The team used precise control of magnetic fields and an intricate system of lasers to choreograph the spin and the rotational motion of the molecules. As result, the atom-molecule mixture had a high ratio of good-to-bad collisions and was cooled from 2 micro-Kelvin to 220 nano-Kelvin.
The National Science Foundation provided funding for the research. John Gillaspy, a program officer in NSF’s Division of Physics, adds, “This is the kind of basic research that we think will lead to new tools for controlling the physical world in ways that will enable technologies of the future.”