In their experiment the scientists tested a completely new principle of cooling. For this, they used the property that atoms can be stimulated by light.
In this process an electron changes from its orbit around the atom's nucleus to an orbit that is further away. However, this is only successful if the incoming light has the appropriate colour. Red light has less energy than blue light. Therefore the 'push' which a red laser gives the electron may not be sufficient for lifting it to a higher orbit.
Atoms in a gas collide with each other regularly. The higher the pressure of the gas is, the more frequent the collisions are. 'In this process the electron orbits of the particles "bend",' Professor Martin Weitz from the Institute of Applied Physics explains. 'At the time of the collision, you therefore need less energy than normally in order to vault the electron into a high orbit.' After the collision the electron orbits become normal again. In order to then stay on the higher orbit, the electron has to 'borrow' the missing energy. 'To do so, it uses the kinetic energy of the atom, which becomes slower in this process,' Ulrich Vogl, a member of Weitz's team adds. Speed and temperature are two sides of the same coin – the slower the molecules in a gas move, the colder it is. So the laser bombardment results in the gas cooling down.
This elegant method was already proposed in 1978 by researchers from New York and Helsinki. However, their idea applied to gases of a not particularly high pressure and the experiments carried out in this way were not really successful. Researchers from Bonn have now heated a mixture of argon gas with traces of rubidium to 350 degrees Celsius and increased the pressure to 230 bars. 'Under these conditions we were able to stimulate the rubidium with a laser whose energy would have normally not been sufficient,' Martin Weitz says. 'While we were doing this, the gas mixture cooled down by almost 70 degrees within several seconds.'
With their experiment the physicists from Bonn wanted to demonstrate first of all that laser cooling works in general under pressure. 'But the whole process should also work with gases below room temperature,' Martin Weitz says confidently. 'Possibly even temperatures close to absolute zero can be achieved with this method.' There are already methods of laser cooling with which gases can be cooled to such low temperatures. However, they only work at extremely low pressures. The gas mixture used in Bonn was ten billion times more dense. Moreover, the new method permits much higher refrigeration capacities. It may therefore be possible to design new kinds of mini fridges on this basis.
High refrigeration capacity
The high refrigeration capacity is also what makes the process attractive for matter researchers. It allows gases to be brought into new, previously unexplored states of matter. As a result of the rapid refrigeration they might remain in a gaseous state at temperatures where they would normally be liquid. Similar effects are known from water, which can be cooled down to - 42 degrees Celsius without it freezing. If the cooling happens very quickly, even lower temperatures are conceivable. 'Supercooled' liquids and gases show interesting properties. Producing them is therefore of interest to many scientists.
Dr. Martin Weitz | EurekAlert!
Study offers new theoretical approach to describing non-equilibrium phase transitions
27.04.2017 | DOE/Argonne National Laboratory
SwRI-led team discovers lull in Mars' giant impact history
26.04.2017 | Southwest Research Institute
More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.
Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...
Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.
"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...
The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.
Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...
The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...
Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.
Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...
28.04.2017 | Event News
20.04.2017 | Event News
18.04.2017 | Event News
28.04.2017 | Medical Engineering
28.04.2017 | Earth Sciences
28.04.2017 | Life Sciences