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Physicists set low temperature record using laser cooling

Researchers believe their cryocooler could be used for infrared detectors on satellites, skin cancer detectors, high precision clocks and more.

By
Brooks Hays

ALBUQUERQUE, Aug. 2 (UPI) -- Researchers at the University of New Mexico are using optical refrigeration to set low-temperature records. Physicists there recently used lasers to cool a special crystal to temperatures below 100 degrees Kelvin -- colder than the Arctic Circle.

The technology includes no moving parts, making it ideal for applications in especially sensitive detectors and sensors.

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"Right now, anything that cools other parts of a system has moving parts. Most of the time, there's liquid running through it that adds vibrations which can impact the precision or resolution of the device," Aram Gragossian, a physicist and research assistant at New Mexico, said in a news release. "But, when you have optical refrigeration, you can go to low temperatures without any vibrations and without any moving parts, making it convenient for a lot of applications."

Lead researcher Mansoor Sheik-Bahae, professor of physics and astronomy at New Mexico, and his lab assistants cooled a unique crystal in their solid-state cryocooler to 91 Kelvin or minus 296 degrees Fahrenheit -- a new record.

Heat, or thermal energy, emits vibrations that can interfere with a sensor's ability to detect minute incongruities. Super-cooled detectors allow for a blank slate, free of interference.

Researchers believe their cryocooler -- a device 20 years in the making -- could be used for infrared detectors on satellites, skin cancer detectors, high precision clocks and more.

Scientists detailed their record-breaking -- but still evolving -- technology in the journal Scientific Reports.

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