For almost two decades there has been research that describes a method to freeze material with nothing but a laser. The techniques have only ever been able to work on single nano-crystals in a vacuum, making it less than functional — or practical. Until now, that is.
Researchers at the University of Washington have figured out how to cool a liquid indirectly using an infrared laser. It works by subjecting a special microscopic crystal to the laser. When the laser hits this crystal, the infrared light turns to the visible spectrum, becoming a reddish green light — which happens to be more energetic than infrared. This shift in energy levels is what causes a change in temperature. The energy (in the way of heat) is sucked from the fluid surrounding the crystal, and as such, causes a drop in the temperature of the liquid.
While our minds probably jump to making a freeze-ray, this breakthrough is more useful in biology, as it will allow researchers to freeze small amounts of tissue in order to better research biological & chemical processes in the body.
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,
Now if only we could find out how to acquire that microscopic crystal… after all, it’s not that hard to build your own infrared CO2 laser using parts from a hardware store…