A University of Alberta physicist’s laboratory is set to become the coldest place in Canada thanks a new piece of specialized equipment.
Within the next few weeks, John Davis’ lab in the basement of the Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Science (CCIS) will house the 10-foot tall structure, which includes an ultra-low temperature dilution refrigerator, vibration resistant columns and other customized parts.
Davis’ research focuses on nano-scale and low-temperature physics. The refrigeration equipment he is expecting in April will allow him to combine both — at a glacial temperature of about 0.0007 Kelvin or -273 C.
“We will be able to measure new and different kinds of quantum properties (at these temperatures),” Davis said. “Much of the modern technology in the world is based around quantum mechanical properties, like computers and phone chargers.”
It’s essential to study quantum mechanical properties at low temperatures before applying them to everyday life, Davis said.
“That’s the goal — you find something new at really low temperatures, study it, really understand its properties, and then you hope to understand it so well you figure out how to replicate and control it at room temperature.”
By studying electrical flow at extremely low temperatures, Davis hopes to better understand quantum mechanics and make his findings applicable to the public.
One example is in the study of the superconductor, a 100 per cent energy efficient device that can bear no resistance and no energy loss.
“(It) would absolutely transform the energy consumption of the world,” Davis said. “The problem is, (the superconductor is) one of the phenomenon that we can only harness in low temperatures. We have not been able to make a room temperature super conductor.”
A key feature in the set-up of Davis’ lab is that vibrations have to be minimized in order to reduce heat as much as possible.
“The concrete around where the fridge will be placed is different than the foundation of this building, so if you were to jump up and down or make a noise, the vibrations wouldn’t affect the equipment,” Davis said.
“There are lots of levels of vibration suppression involved, because if I vibrate something, it heats up. So right around where you want it to get really cold, we have to minimize vibrations.”
The ability to explore forms of magnetic cooling will be another distinction of Davis’ lab.
“This piece of equipment can go to both low temperatures and have a high magnetic field,” Davis said. “This allows us to explore quantum mechanics in a way not seen anywhere else in Canada.”
In doing this, Davis hopes people can experience the world of particle movement around them.
“You don’t experience the quantum world around you because it’s too hot,” Davis said.
“All of the effects are washed out by temperature. So when we hit these very low temperatures in experiments, we can actually reveal all of these quantum properties.”
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