Scientists demonstrate, for the time, a solid-state "MASER" capable of operating at room temperature, paving the way for its widespread adoption as reported today in the journal Nature.
MASER stands for Microwave Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Devices based on this process (and known by the same acronym) were developed by scientists more than 50 years ago, before the first LASERs were invented. Instead of creating intense beams of light, as in the case of LASERs, MASERs deliver a concentrated beam of microwaves.
Conventional MASER technology works by amplifying microwaves using hard inorganic crystals such as ruby, this process is known as "masing". However, the MASER has had little technological impact compared to the LASER because getting it to work has always required extreme conditions that are difficult to produce; either extremely low pressures, supplied by special vacuum chambers and pumps, or freezing conditions at temperatures close to absolute zero ( -273.15C), supplied by special refrigerators. To make matters worse, the application of strong magnetic fields has often also been necessary, requiring large magnets.
Now, the team from the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and Imperial College London have demonstrated masing in a solid-state device working in air at room temperature with no applied magnetic field. Today's breakthrough means that the cost to manufacture and operate MASERs could be dramatically reduced, which could lead to them becoming as widely used as LASER technology.
The researchers suggest that room-temperature MASERs could be used to make more sensitive medical instruments for scanning patients, improved chemical sensors for remotely detecting explosives; lower-noise read-out mechanisms for quantum computers and better radio telescopes for potentially detecting life on other planets.
Dr Mark Oxborrow, co-author of the study at NPL, says: "For half a century th
|Contact: David Lewis|
National Physical Laboratory