And you thought lasers were cool before...

Researchers from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) have had a breakthrough in laser cooling technology which could lead to a host of future innovations such as slim-lined MRI machines and self-cooling computer chips
 The end for bulky and noisy air-conditioning units?

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Over three years, the NTU team conducted experiments to laser-cool a semiconductor from 20°C to -20°C, something which had never previously been proven.

The Singapore team’s results could herald the end of bulky and noisy air-conditioning compressors and refrigerators, as well as allowing computer chips to cool themselves, minimising heat and prolonging battery life for a range of electrical devices.

Assistant Professor from the School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences and the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Xiong Qihua commented:

“If we are able to harness the power of laser cooling, it would mean that medical devices which require extreme cooling, such as MRI which uses liquid helium, could do away with their bulky refrigerant systems with just an optical refrigeration devices in its place.

“Not only that, but it would also remove the need for compressors and coolants in air-conditioning and refrigerators used in our homes and automobiles, saving space, energy and green house gases which are harmful to our ozone layer.”

 Xiong added that the potential for a compact, cost-effective, vibration-free and cryogen-less cooling system is enormous, with the global market for energy-efficient buildings estimated to be worth over US$100 billion by 2017, according to Global Industry Analysts.

“This also translates into the ability to build miniaturised coolers to cool infrared sensors used in satellites for imaging and build self-cooling computer chips suitable for use in portable devices like tablets and smartphones.”

NTU’s research into fundamental physics and sciences is one of the key components in Sustainability, one of the university’s Five Peaks of Excellence; areas of research which NTU hopes to make a global difference between 2010 and 2015.

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