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.
"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.