Georgia College physics students create arctic chill on campus

Georgia College students create arctic chill

Georgia College in Milledgeville has had hot weather just like the rest of Central Georgia lately, but some physics students have created a spot on campus colder than Antarctica.

Looking at it, you might not know that there's a place on Georgia College's campus that's a lot colder than Antarctica.

"Like if you went to Antarctica, that would feel like a warm summer day compared to in that vacuum chamber," Matt Dallas, student, said.

In the basement of the Herty building on GCSU's campus, Hauke Busch's students use a high-vacuum chamber to study atoms under ultra-cold temperatures. The chill approaches absolute zero, -459.67 degrees Fahrenheit. Scientists believe that absolute zero is actually impossible to reach.

"The MOT is a vacuum chamber so the only thing in that chamber is Rubidium," Dallas said.

Georgia College physics students study Rubidium, an element on the periodic table, that the students use lasers to control the MOT.

"Rubidium is sort of slammed in the middle so it can't move, so it has a very low energy level, which just means it's going to be cold because there's not a whole lot going on," Dallas said.

Matt Dallas and Christalei Polk are two students helping Busch with this project.

"The lasers are going into the trap from 6 different directions so that they can't move," Polk said. "So it's like being tugged by a rope from your head, your toes, your arms, your legs from 6 different sides where you can't move anywhere."

Polk says Rubidium is an element that we still don't know much about, and Dallas says every time they learn something new, it's a small victory towards the bigger goal.

"It's like a giant puzzle, you're just trying to figure out what's going on," Dallas said. "And when you do get it right, it's just like, fist bump. It's awesome."

Busch says most undergrads at other schools would never have an chance to work on a project like this until grad school.

"You pretty much have to do everything," Busch said. "It's not just like sitting behind a computer or behind a book learning theory, it's actually theory plus application of that, and not a lot of projects are this broad."

A project that has all the elements to prove that even if reaching absolute zero may be impossible, studying it, is actually pretty cool.

The Magneto Optical Trap has been a work in progress for 6 years now, and just recently, the undergrad students were able to achieve the near absolute zero temperature.


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