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Lasers Used to Chill, Instead of Heat


This instrument built by UW engineers (from left) Peter Pauzauskie, Xuezhe Zhou, Bennett Smith, Matthew Crane and Paden Roder (unpictured) used infrared laser light to refrigerate liquids for the first time.Dennis Wise/University of Washington

This instrument built by UW engineers (from left) Peter Pauzauskie, Xuezhe Zhou, Bennett Smith, Matthew Crane and Paden Roder (unpictured) used infrared laser light to refrigerate liquids for the first time.Dennis Wise/University of Washington


University of Washington researchers say they used a laser to turn hot water into cool water.

Five engineers from the university are the first in the 50-year history of the laser to refrigerate liquids under normal conditions with light beams.

The group used a simple approach to the experiment. Lasers are known for producing hot temperatures. The University of Washington says they “essentially ran the laser phenomenon in reverse.”

The discovery has a future in the computer and medical fields. Computer interiors could be cooled by lasers. In a medical laboratory, individual cells could be cooled to see how they react.

“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 researcher Peter Pauzauskie.

The cool laser concept can also be used in manufacturing, telecommunications or national defense.

The group has an interest in hearing from businesses or scientists who may have every day applications for the cool laser.

The findings were published this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

I’m Marsha James.

Jim Dresbach wrote this story for Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.

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Words in This Story

refrigerate – v. to keep something cold or keep it fresh

approach – n. a way of dealing with something

reverse – adj. opposite to what is stated or considered normal

refrigerate – v. to keep something cold or keep it fresh

telecommunications – n. the technology of sending and receiving signals or images over long distances by telephone, television or satellite

defense – n. the things that are done by a country to protect itself from enemies

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