absolute zero

absolute zero, the zero point of the ideal gas temperature scale, denoted by 0 degrees on the Kelvin and Rankine temperature scales, which is equivalent to - 273.15°C and - 459.67°F. For most gases there is a linear relationship between temperature and pressure (see gas laws), i.e., gases contract indefinitely as the temperature is decreased. Theoretically, at absolute zero the volume of an ideal gas would be zero and all molecular motion would cease. In actuality, all gases condense to solids or liquids well above this point. Although absolute zero cannot be reached, temperatures within a few billionths of a degree above absolute zero have been achieved in the laboratory. At such low temperatures, gases assume nontraditional states, the Bose-Einstein and fermionic condensates. See also low-temperature physics; temperature.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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