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Gizmorama - August 8, 2016

Good Morning,

I always thought that lasers warmed things up, but now it seems that lasers are being used to set record low temperatures using optical refrigeration. Cool!

Learn about this and more interesting stories from the scientific community in today's issue.

Until Next Time,

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*-- Physicists set low temperature record using laser cooling --*

ALBUQUERQUE - 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.

*-- Study looks at future of 2D materials --*

MANCHESTER, England - Graphene -- the atom-thick, honeycomb-like weave of carbon -- revolutionized the world of materials science. Now other 2D materials and their creators are looking to do the same.

In a new survey, researchers at the University of Manchester and National University of Singapore detailed the potential of several new types of 2D materials.

Materials scientists have had great success combining graphene with other materials, but the latest survey -- published this week in the journal Science -- suggests mimicking the heterostructures of graphene with new material combinations.

As was the case when the material qualities of graphene -- strength, flexibility, conductivity -- were first realized in 2004, scientists are struggling scale up the synthesis of other 2D materials.

"With 2D materials, we are currently where we were about 10 years ago with graphene -- plenty of interesting science and unclear prospects for mass production," Kostya Novoselov, a physicist and material scientist at Manchester, said in a news release. "Given the fast progress of graphene technology over the past few years, we can expect similar advances in the production of heterostructures, making the science and applications more achievable."

Currently, researchers create 2D materials by stacking monolayer flakes of different materials. The process is slow and cumbersome. The new study highlights the need for more efficient synthesization processes like chemical vapor deposition to further expand the potential of these novel materials.

"Given the fast progress of graphene technology over the past few years, we can expect similar advances in the production of the heterostructures," researchers wrote in their new paper, "making the science and applications more achievable."


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