Scientists Create a Real-Life Freeze Ray

Wednesday, 18 November 2015 - 2:42PM
Science of Sci-Fi
Physics
Wednesday, 18 November 2015 - 2:42PM
Scientists Create a Real-Life Freeze Ray
Mr. Freeze is arriving on Gotham sometime next year, and as it turns out, a real-life Mr. Freeze could be making an appearance even sooner than that. A team of researchers from the University of Washington has successfully cooled down liquid using a laser, or in other words, have built their very own freeze ray.

In both real life and fiction, lasers have invariably heated materials rather than cooling them down. But in this study, which will be published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers were able to refrigerate liquid using an infrared laser.

Opening quote
"Typically, when you go to the movies and see Star Wars laser blasters, they heat things up. This is the first example of a laser beam that will refrigerate liquids like water under everyday conditions," said senior author Peter Pauzauskie in a statement. "It was really an open question as to whether this could be done because normally water warms when illuminated."
Closing quote

In order to achieve this phenomenon, the scientists essentially made the laser run in reverse. They used the infrared laser light to illuminate a single microscopic crystal suspended in the water, causing a glow that has slightly higher energy than the energy absorbed. This higher-energy glow directs heat away from the crystal and the surrounding water, effectively refrigerating the material.

Using this "point cool" system, extremely tiny areas can be refrigerated using points of light, allowing for a multitude of applications. The researchers intend for the method to be used by microprocessors to cool specific areas of computer chips to prevent overheating, or even refrigerate specific areas of cells as they undergo processes such as division and repair, creating "slow-motion movies" of little-understood processes in the body.

Opening quote
"There's a lot of interest in how cells divide and how molecules and enzymes function, and it's never been possible before to refrigerate them to study their properties," said Pauzauskie. "Using laser cooling, it may be possible to prepare slow-motion movies of life in action. And the advantage is that you don't have to cool the entire cell, which could kill it or change its behavior."
Closing quote

Thus far, the researchers have only demonstrated the method on single nanocrystals, but they envision a future in which it has large-scale applications, such as manufacturing, telecommunications, and even defense.

Opening quote
"Few people have thought about how they could use this technology to solve problems because using lasers to refrigerate liquids hasn't been possible before," said lead author Paden Roder. "We are interested in the ideas other scientists or businesses might have for how this might impact their basic research or bottom line."
Closing quote


Via IFL Science.
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