Twitter Icon
Follow Me on Twitter

Quantumaniac is where it’s at - and by ‘it’ I mean awesome.

Over here, I post a ton of astronomy / math / general science in an attempt to make your brain feel good. My aim is to be as informative as possible, while posting fascinating things that hopefully enlighten us both a little to the mysteries of our truly wondrous universe(s?). Plus, how would you know if the blog exists or not unless you observe it?

Boom, just pulled the Schrödinger’s cat card. Now you have to check it out - trust me, it said so in an equation somewhere.

Also, please check out my web design company - O8 Labs

Follow Tyler Simko on Quora

 

First Practical Maser (Microwave Laser) Built

Using spare chemicals, a laser bought on eBay and angst from a late-night argument, physicists have got the world’s first room-temperature microwave laser working. The achievement comes nearly 60 years after the first clunky versions of such devices were built, and could revolutionize communication and space exploration. The work is published this week in Nature.

Before there were lasers, there were microwave lasers, or masers. First conceived in the Soviet Union and the United States during the 1950s, early maser machines were the size of a chest of drawers. They produced only a few nanowatts of power, severely limiting their usefulness.

Because of this impediment, most in the field gave up on masers and moved on to lasers, which use the same principles of physics, but work with optical light instead of microwaves. Lasers are now used in applications ranging from eye surgery to CD players. The poor maser lived on in obscurity. It found only a few niche uses, such as boosting radio signals from distant spacecraft — including NASA’s Curiosity Mars rover. Those masers work only when cooled to less than ten degrees above absolute zero, and even then they are not nearly as powerful as lasers.

Pink power
But Mark Oxborrow, a physicist at the UK National Physical Laboratory in Teddington, wondered whether a crystal containing the organic molecule pentacene might offer a breakthrough. He came across a decade-old publication by Japaneseresearchers suggesting that when the electrons in pentacene are excited by a laser, they configure such that the molecule could work as a maser, possibly even at room temperature.

He borrowed some spare pentacene from a lab at Imperial, and cooked it with another organic molecule known as p-terphenyl. The result was a pink crystal a few centimeters long.

Next, the team needed a powerful laser. Oxborrow located an old medical laser on eBay and drove to a warehouse in north London to pick it up. But the researchers were filled with doubts — the whole thing seemed too easy. Oxborrow admits that he was skittish about the experiment. “For about three days, I could have done it, but I didn’t have the nerve to switch on that button,” he says.

The final impetus came from an argument with his wife. Whereas less well-behaved people might have wallowed in the pub, “I went to the lab as a bit of therapy”, says Oxborrow. “I said, ‘Oh well, what the hell, let’s just try it.” And it worked on the first go.

Excited state
The laser light excited the pentacene molecules to an energy level known as a metastable state. Then a microwave passing through the crystal triggered the molecules to relax, releasing a cascade of microwaves of the same wavelength.

It was the same principle as an optical laser. “The signal that came out of it was huge,” says Oxborrow, about a hundred million times as powerful as an existing maser. Alone in his lab, “I swore a lot and walked around the corridor about five times talking to myself”.

Left: New maser

Right: A Hydrogen Radio Frequency Discharge (early Maser)

  1. jollyoldchap reblogged this from telesight
  2. bearbeeler reblogged this from telesight
  3. telesight reblogged this from quantumaniac
  4. heatstreak reblogged this from jacksrevlimiter
  5. clev3r-url reblogged this from afuturefossilfuel
  6. notaparagon reblogged this from quantumaniac
  7. iturnedintoatree reblogged this from sailorusagidesu
  8. earthwaker reblogged this from reafan
  9. chaostheorem reblogged this from quantumaniac
  10. southerngamer reblogged this from quantumaniac
  11. sumiregusashadow reblogged this from a-nervous-system
  12. blade594 reblogged this from quantumaniac
  13. gamma-radio reblogged this from quantumaniac
  14. thescienceblog reblogged this from scinerds
  15. malphalent reblogged this from scinerds
  16. traummeamor reblogged this from quantumaniac and added:
    OH THIS, THIS IS GOOD
  17. seymourbuhts reblogged this from quantumaniac
  18. with-out-wax reblogged this from afuturefossilfuel
  19. afuturefossilfuel reblogged this from jesus-christ-supersoaker
  20. chris-rock reblogged this from adistinguishedvillain
  21. adistinguishedvillain reblogged this from scinerds
  22. biognosis reblogged this from quantumaniac
  23. redrobinrising reblogged this from quantumaniac
  24. jodreyisgod reblogged this from tinababeh
  25. blade-runner reblogged this from quantumaniac
  26. victographics reblogged this from starstuffblog
  27. mammals-in-motion reblogged this from quantumaniac
  28. bro-thernature reblogged this from quantumaniac
  29. 221bcurious reblogged this from sciencewalrus