Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Trip the Light Fantastic

Trip the Light Fantastic, originally penned by John Milton in a poem titled L'Allegro, means to move lighly and dance well, an apt description of Chilled Light and the creation, for the first time, of a BEC consisting of photons, a physical construct thought to be impossible to build until now.

And yet, the Bonn researchers succeeded by using two highly reflective mirrors between which they kept bouncing a light beam back and forth. Between the reflective surfaces there were dissolved pigment molecules with which the photons collided periodically. In these collisions, the molecules 'swallowed' the photons and then 'spit' them out again. "During this process, the photons assumed the temperature of the fluid," explained Professor Weitz. "They cooled each other off to room temperature this way, and they did it without getting lost in the process."

The implications of this research staggers the imagination, especially when factored into the solar energy equation.

The technique could one day have practical applications for collecting and focusing sunlight, says Weidemüller. Whereas an ordinary lens can concentrate sunlight in solar cells on a clear day, the BEC technique has the advantage that it could also collect light scattered in all directions on a cloudy day, he explains.

Another rather interesting application centers on building X Ray lasers able to etch ever smaller and denser circuits onto  computer chips, thus creating systems of almost unimaginable power.

Another reason why science rocks - again. :)

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