Where to find the coolest place on Earth


13 September 2018 11:51
Lancaster University’s IsoLab - one of the most advanced facilities in the world for studying quantum systems in controlled conditions.
Lancaster University’s IsoLab is one of the most advanced facilities in the world for studying quantum systems in controlled conditions

Learn how to create the coldest temperature in the Universe – here on Earth.

See an image of a single atom – and have a go at recreating the revolutionary experiment yourself.

Visitors to the New Scientist Live festival in London from September 20-23 can do all this and more at The Art of Isolation exhibit, which showcases Lancaster University’s IsoLab - one of the most advanced facilities in the world for studying quantum systems in controlled conditions.

You will be able to explore how some of the most sensitive experiments in the world are performed with hands-on activities and working demos exploring different aspects of quantum mechanics and nanotechnology.

  • Test your ability to detect single atoms with our model atomic force microscope
  • See how vibrations affect a levitating model superconductor
  • Visualise a real quantum mechanical device with an interactive 3D LED cube

IsoLab is a suite of three laboratories or “pods” which enable unprecedented levels of accuracy for research into the fundamental nature of matter at the atomic level.  

This is where you will find temperatures colder than deep space, as physicists probe how matter behaves close to absolute zero (-273 C). 

The strange properties of matter at these low temperatures provide us with insights about the fundamental nature of the world around us and can help to bring us new industrial applications such as quantum computers.

IsoLab is also where scientists have created the first practical quantum random number generator (Q-RAND®), patented by spinout company Quantum Base, which promises to revolutionise internet security.

Based on true (not pseudo) random numbers, Q-RAND will help to eliminate cybercrime through unbreakable encryption algorithms that are vital to society. Current true random number generators are slow and expensive, but Q-RAND can be embedded within any electronic device without increasing cost or complexity and with a very high maximum speed, providing secure authentication and communication.

IsoLab is also being used to image atomic and molecular structures, far beyond the limits accessible to conventional optical microscopy. This revolutionary imaging is thanks to the combination of a state-of-the-art atomic force microscope from Bruker and IsoLab’s ultra low noise environment.

Each fully insulated IsoLab pod features a 50 tonne concrete isolation block floating on independently controlled airsprings. The entire building sits inside a 350-ton concrete tank in order to drastically reduce any vibration, noise and electromagnetic disturbance, making this the quietest place on Earth as well as the coldest.

Nowhere else in the world can offer such a scale and spectrum of "ultra-clean" environments custom made by scientists working with designers.

IsoLab was funded by Lancaster University and by substantial contributions from The Wolfson Foundation, J P Moulton Charitable Foundation and the Garfield Weston Foundation.

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