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The lowest temperature ever recorded was back here on Earth in a laboratory. Earlier, scientists at the Helsinki University of Technology in Finland achieved a temperature of 0.


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However, this was the temperature for just one particular type of motion — a quantum property called nuclear spin — not the overall temperature for all possible motions. In everyday solids, liquids and gases, heat or thermal energy arises from the motion of atoms and molecules as they zing around and bounce off each other. But at very low temperatures, the odd rules of quantum mechanics reign.

The first pure Bose-Einstein condensate was created in Colorado in using a cloud of rubidium atoms cooled to less than nanokelvin.

Absolute zero

The notion that there is an ultimately lowest temperature was suggested by the behaviour of gases at low pressures: it was noted that gases seem to contract indefinitely as temperature decreases. Any real gas actually condenses to a liquid or a solid at some temperature higher than absolute zero. Therefore, the ideal gas law is only an approximation to real gas behaviour. As such, however, it is extremely useful.

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The concept of absolute zero as a limiting temperature has many thermodynamic consequences. For example, all molecular motion does not cease at absolute zero molecules vibrate with what is called zero-point energy , but no energy from molecular motion that is, heat energy is available for transfer to other systems, and it is therefore correct to say that the energy at absolute zero is minimal. Any temperature scale having absolute zero for its zero point is termed an absolute temperature scale or a thermodynamic scale.

In the International System of Units , the Kelvin K scale is the standard for all scientific temperature measurements. The interval between this triple point and absolute zero comprises You are using an outdated browser.

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As such, nothing can be colder than absolute zero on the Kelvin scale. To comprehend the negative temperatures scientists have now devised, one might think of temperature as existing on a scale that is actually a loop, not linear. Positive temperatures make up one part of the loop, while negative temperatures make up the other part.

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When temperatures go either below zero or above infinity on the positive region of this scale, they end up in negative territory. Your Basic Physics Questions Answered ].

Atoms Reach Record Temperature, Colder than Absolute Zero

With positive temperatures, atoms more likely occupy low-energy states than high-energy states, a pattern known as Boltzmann distribution in physics. When an object is heated, its atoms can reach higher energy levels. At absolute zero, atoms would occupy the lowest energy state. At an infinite temperature, atoms would occupy all energy states.

Negative temperatures then are the opposite of positive temperatures — atoms more likely occupy high-energy states than low-energy states.

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It is even hotter than at any positive temperature — the temperature scale simply does not end at infinity, but jumps to negative values instead. As one might expect, objects with negative temperatures behave in very odd ways. For instance, energy typically flows from objects with a higher positive temperature to ones with a lower positive temperature — that is, hotter objects heat up cooler objects, and colder objects cool down hotter ones, until they reach a common temperature.

However, energy will always flow from objects with negative temperature to ones with positive temperatures.


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  8. In this sense, objects with negative temperatures are always hotter than ones with positive temperatures. Another odd consequence of negative temperatures has to do with entropy , which is a measure of how disorderly a system is.


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