Laser Cooling Big Chill

Laser cooling of gases can drop the temperature by as much as 119 degrees Fahrenheit in just seconds, according to researchers at the University of Bonn, Germany.

Laser cooling works because zapping gas molecules with the right kind of laser excites electrons into higher-than-normal orbits. “In this process the electron orbits of the particles ‘bend,’” physicist Martin Weitz of the University of Bonn said in a press release. “At the time of the collision, you therefore need less energy than normal in order to vault the electron into a high orbit.”

Once the collision is over, the orbits return to their normal shape, and electrons have to absorb energy to stay in the new higher orbit. As electrons soak up extra energy, gas particles slow down and the temperature drops.

Star Wars fans are shivering with anticipation at the prospect of real-life freezing options. Han Solo was frozen in carbonite; Mr. Freeze was famous for his quick chill.


(Han Solo in carbonite)

Via Wired. Thanks to Moira for pointing out this story.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 9/4/2009)

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