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Laser Used to Cool Water for First Time


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Lasers are a really cool technology that enables all kinds of other technologies and experiments. One thing fairly consistent with lasers is that they heat the targeted object up as the beam continues to strike it. Researchers at the University of Washington have changed that though, by actually cooling water by 36 ºF with an infrared laser.

This refrigeration effect was first demonstrated at Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1995, but in that case vacuum conditions were required. What the Washington researchers have achieved is under real-world conditions though, so it has many possible applications. It works by aiming the laser at a microscopic crystal that has been suspended in the water, or other liquid. When the crystal is hit by the light, it emits a glow, but this glow puts out more energy than the laser is providing. The extra energy therefore comes from the crystal's environment; the liquid it is suspended in.

This discovery has many applications, including in biology as it could allow lasers to precisely cool various cells when undergoing different processes. It could even be deployed to cool objects like computer chips. Currently though, the process takes a lot of energy, so the researchers are going to continue to work on ways to improve its efficiency.

Source: University of Washington

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