National Physical Laboratory

Absolutely freezing

Michael de Podesta, Principal Research Scientist in NPL's Temperature and Humidity Group, has written an article in New Scientist (issue number 2922) on the never-ending quest to reach the coldest temperature and how that journey has exposed a world of scientific marvels.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto
Image courtesy of iStockphoto

Absolute zero lies at the zero of the kelvin temperature scale and is equivalent to -273.15 °C. It is the theoretical temperature at which atoms lose all energy and become completely still. In the article, Michael explains how, ever since the idea was first proposed, scientists have been trying to get as close as possible to absolute zero.

Along the way they have discovered new phenomena such as superconductivity, where at very low temperatures some metals lose any electrical resistance. This is exploited in applications such as MRI scanning and in the powerful magnets used at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland.

New Scientist subscribers can now read the full article online

Find out more about the kelvin (the SI unit for temperature) and watch a video of Michael de Podesta explaining its significance

Come and learn more at the Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition on 2-7 July 2013, where NPL will be exhibiting a stand about Acoustic thermometry and the attempt to redefine the kelvin: Boltzmann sounds out Kelvin

The recent BBC Four series 'Precision: The Measure of All Things' featured NPL and our work on temperature

For further details, please contact Michael de Podesta

Last Updated: 26 Jun 2013
Created: 26 Jun 2013

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