Scientists Use Laser To Cool Liquid For The First Time

Posted: Nov 19 2015, 1:33am CST | by , Updated: Nov 19 2015, 1:43am CST, in News | Latest Science News


Scientists Use Laser to Freeze Water for the First Time
Nanocrystals developed as they are cooled by laser. Dennis Wise/University of Washington

Laser is used for heating up materials but it is the first time when beams of light are used to cool off liquids

Laser has been invented almost five decades ago and has been successfully used to heat up materials. 

But for the first time, researchers from University of Washington have used the concentrated beams of light to cool off liquids. Researchers have found that laser can refrigerate water and other liquids up to 36 degrees Fahrenheit, which is a remarkable breakthrough in the field.


“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 co-author Peter Pauzauskie, assistant professor materials science and engineering at WU.

“It was really an open question as to whether this could be done because normally water warms when illuminated.”

To achieve this phenomenon, researchers used a material which is found commonly in lasers but made it ran in reverse. They let up a single microscopic crystal in the water with invisible laser light to create a unique kind of glow, which produced slightly more energy than absorbed. The higher-energy glow took the heat away from both the crystal and the water surrounding it and let it cool. Researchers used infrared light and its cool laser beam for carrying out the experiment instead of visible laser that is damaging for a cell.

They demonstrated it with an especially designed instrument as well, which allows to clearly observe the freezing process. The instrument projects the shadows of the particles in such a way that minute changes in its motion can be easily observed. 

The concept of laser refrigeration was known way earlier but it took nearly 20 years to practically demonstrate it in liquids. 

“The real challenge of the project was building an instrument and devising a method capable of determining the temperature of these nanocrystals using signatures of the same light that was used to trap them.” Lead author Paden Roder said. 

Typically, making laser crystal is an expensive and time-consuming task. But researchers from WU showed it in a quicker, low cost and scalable way. The findings have implications for many other areas, such as in microprocessors where laser beam could be used to cool specific components in computer chips to prevent overheating and to make them more efficient in processing.

So far, researchers have been able to cool off single nanocrystal and more laser power will be required to freeze multiple crystals. They are trying to incorporate other things to improve its efficiency.

“Few people have thought about how they could use this technology to solve problems because using lasers to refrigerate liquids has not been possible before,” said Pauzauskie. “We are interested in the ideas other scientists or businesses might have for this might impact their basic research or bottom line.”

Source: University of Washington

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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