Publication Title


Document Type


Department or Program

Physics and Astronomy

Publication Date



Substantial leaps in the understanding of quantum systems have been driven by exploring geometry, topology, dimensionality and interactions in ultracold atomic ensembles1–6. A system where atoms evolve while confined on an ellipsoidal surface represents a heretofore unexplored geometry and topology. Realizing an ultracold bubble—potentially Bose–Einstein condensed—relates to areas of interest including quantized-vortex flow constrained to a closed surface topology, collective modes and self-interference via bubble expansion7–17. Large ultracold bubbles, created by inflating smaller condensates, directly tie into Hubble-analogue expansion physics18–20. Here we report observations from the NASA Cold Atom Lab21 facility onboard the International Space Station of bubbles of ultracold atoms created using a radiofrequency-dressing protocol. We observe bubble configurations of varying size and initial temperature, and explore bubble thermodynamics, demonstrating substantial cooling associated with inflation. We achieve partial coverings of bubble traps greater than one millimetre in size with ultracold films of inferred few-micrometre thickness, and we observe the dynamics of shell structures projected into free-evolving harmonic confinement. The observations are among the first measurements made with ultracold atoms in space, using perpetual freefall to explore quantum systems that are prohibitively difficult to create on Earth. This work heralds future studies (in orbital microgravity) of the Bose–Einstein condensed bubble, the character of its excitations and the role of topology in its evolution.


Original version is available from the publisher at:

PubMed ID


Copyright Note

This is the author's version of the work. This publication appears in Bates College's institutional repository by permission of the copyright owner for personal use, not for redistribution.

Required Publisher's Statement

This version of the article has been accepted for publication, after peer review (when applicable) and is subject to Springer Nature’s AM terms of use, but is not the Version of Record and does not reflect post-acceptance improvements, or any corrections. The Version of Record is available online at: