Cold Atom Lab (Cold Atom Lab) - 06.06.18

Summary | Overview | Operations | Results | Publications | Imagery

ISS Science for Everyone

Science Objectives for Everyone
Operating on the International Space Station (ISS), the Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL) produces clouds of atoms that are chilled to about one ten billionth of a degree above absolute zero -- much colder than the average temperature of deep space. At these low temperatures, atoms have almost no motion, allowing scientists to study fundamental behaviors and quantum characteristics that are difficult or impossible to probe at higher temperatures. In microgravity, researchers may be able to achieve even colder temperatures than what is possible on the ground, and observe these cold atom clouds for longer periods of time.
Science Results for Everyone
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The following content was provided by Robert Thompson, and is maintained in a database by the ISS Program Science Office.
Facility Details

OpNom: Cold Atom Lab

Facility Manager(s)
Kamal Oudrhiri, M.S., Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, United States
ROBERT F. SHOTWELL, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, United States

Facility Representative(s)
Robert Thompson, Jet Propulsion Lab, Pasadena, CA, United States
Chelsea Dutenhoffer, M.S., Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, United States
JAMES R. KELLOGG, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, United States

Developer(s)
NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, United States

Sponsoring Space Agency
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Sponsoring Organization
NASA Research Office - Space Life and Physical Sciences (NASA Research-SLPS)

ISS Expedition Duration
September 2017 - August 2018; -

Expeditions Assigned
53/54,55/56,57/58,59/60,61/62,63/64,65/66

Previous Missions
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Availability
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Facility Description

Facility Overview

The quest for ever colder temperatures has been a major theme of physics for over a century, leading to such breakthroughs as the discovery of superfluidity and superconductivity, and more recently, to the development of laser cooling techniques. All matter has both a wave aspect and a particle aspect. At high temperatures atoms behave as particles. At very cold temperatures the wave nature becomes more pronounced. At the critical temperature and density, the wavelengths of the atoms overlap. Below this temperature, most of the atoms share the same macroscopic wave function. The microgravity environment of ISS enables the Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL) laser cooling technology to reach temperatures colder than ever achieved on Earth, and to therefore analyze atom wave functions never observed. CAL research findings will facilitate the development of future ultra-cold atom-based quantum sensors for gravitational and magnetic fields, rotations, and tests of the equivalence principle.
 
The CAL is a multi-user facility designed to study ultra-cold quantum gases in the microgravity environment of the ISS. CAL is designed to be a simple but versatile experimental facility, capable of producing ultra-cold samples of several atomic species and loading them into optical lattices, or very weak magnetic traps, and studying them under a variety of conditions. CAL is designed to be upgradable to meet the needs of specific future investigations. The CAL is a compact, atom-chip based apparatus, capable of trapping both Rubidium (87Rb) and Potassium (either 40K or 41K), and of producing degenerate gases of each species after a few seconds of collection and cooling. The atom chip approach is chosen because of power and volume constraints, though for many applications, transfers the atoms into either a weak trap away from the chip, or into an optical lattice.
 
CAL offers investigators a suite of precision tools to enable a wide variety of science. Three atomic species; microwave state selection and adiabatic rapid passage enables any of 24 different quantum states to prepare (with an infinite number of mixtures and super positions). The Feshbach coil allows for the precise control of interactions between atoms in certain states. Bragg beams enable atom interferometry, but are also a sensitive way to probe a variety of condensate properties. High and low resolution imaging allow scientists to view atom clouds from two directions. Delta-kick cooling allows scientists to access a previously unexplored range of effective temperature and enables precise focusing and shaping of atomic clouds.

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Operations

Facility Operations
The CAL hardware is powered continuously. Science operations are conducted for 8 hours per day during the crew sleep period to minimize the potential of microgravity disturbances. During the crew wake period (approximately 16 hours per day) CAL is in a stand-by operational mode.

 

CAL performance is continuously monitored during science operations. Trending of performance and adjustments to sequences for optimization are done on the fly with a quick look at data each day to ensure performance.

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Decadal Survey Recommendations

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Results/More Information

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Results Publications

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Ground Based Results Publications

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ISS Patents

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Related Publications

    DIncao JP, Krutzik M, Elliott E, Williams JR.  Enhanced association and dissociation of heteronuclear Feshbach molecules in a microgravity environment. Physical Review A. 2017 January 3; 95(1): 012701. DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevA.95.012701.

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Related Websites

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Imagery

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False-color images which show the formation of a Bose-Einstein condensate in the Cold Atom Laboratory prototype at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) as the temperature gets progressively closer to absolute zero. Red in each figure indicates higher density. Bottom image is a sequence of false-color images. Image courtesy of JPL.

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The Cold Atom Lab is a multi-user facility designed to study ultra-cold quantum gases in the microgravity environment of the ISS. The hardware consists of a Quad (Science Instrument) and a Single (Power Electronics) Locker integrated into an EXPRESS (EXpedite the PRocessing of Experiments for Space Station) Rack. Image courtesy of JPL.

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The Cold Atom Lab studies ultra-cold quantum gases; scientists use the facility to explore how atoms interact when they have almost no motion due to such cold temperatures. Due to the microgravity environment of the International Space Station, matter can stay in the form of a Bose Einstein condensate longer than on Earth, giving researchers the unique opportunity to observe this phenomena.  Image courtesy of JPL.

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image
The Cold Atom Lab studies ultra-cold quantum gases; scientists use the facility to explore how atoms interact when they have almost no motion due to such cold temperatures. Due to the microgravity environment of the International Space Station, matter can stay in the form of a Bose Einstein condensate longer than on Earth, giving researchers the unique opportunity to observe this phenomena. Image courtesy of JPL.

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image
The Cold Atom Lab studies ultra-cold quantum gases; scientists use the facility to explore how atoms interact when they have almost no motion due to such cold temperatures. Due to the microgravity environment of the International Space Station, matter can stay in the form of a Bose Einstein condensate longer than on Earth, giving researchers the unique opportunity to observe this phenomena. Image courtesy of JPL.

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