New synthetic solid approaches absolute 0 without helium

Chinese scientists have discovered how to achieve a near-zero refrigeration temperature without using helium.

The team of researchers from the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences and their collaborators recently published a paper detailing their discovery. They achieved the near-zero temperature by synthesising a supersolid material. A supersolid is a quantum state of matter that has an ordered structure but also shows superfluidity.

The scientists were able to achieve the ultra-low temperature of below -273ºC. This newly synthesised supersolid, Na2BaCo(PO4)2, possesses a giant magnetocaloric effect, according to the researchers.

The new material could represent a significant breakthrough in cooling technology if confirmed, as it can be put to use in technologies that traditionally use helium. Helium is needed in technologies that use superconducting magnets (such as MRI machines), but it is a limited resource with rising extraction costs.

One of the lead scientists, Prof Su Gang of the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, told Xinhua News that the findings have demonstrated a new route to extreme cooling that can be used in fields such as deep space exploration, quantum science and materials science.

The full paper is available on the Nature website.

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