Scientists refrigerate liquid using infrared laser

WASHINGTON (TIP): In a breakthrough, scientists have for the first time used a laser to refrigerate water and other liquids under real-world conditions.

Researchers used an infrared laser to cool water by about two degrees Celsius, becoming the first to solve a decades-old puzzle. The discovery could help industrial users “point cool” tiny areas with a focused point of light.

Microprocessors, for instance, might someday use a laser beam to cool specific components in computer chips to prevent overheating and enable more efficient information processing.

Researchers chose infrared light for its cooling laser with biological applications in mind, as visible light could give cells a damaging “sunburn”. They demonstrated that the laser could refrigerate saline solution and cell culture media that are commonly used in genetic and molecular research.

To achieve the breakthrough, the team used a material commonly found in commercial lasers but essentially ran the laser phenomenon in reverse. They illuminated a single microscopic crystal suspended in water with infrared laser light to excite a unique kind of glow that has slightly more energy than that amount of light absorbed.

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