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One day lasers could cool your home

Posting in Energy

SmartPlanet's C.C. Sullivan foresees a big year for the air conditioning business and highlights innovations on the horizon at a recent convention. But if you look a little farther past the horizon you might see this: an air conditioning unit that's cooled by lasers.

Scientists at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University have developed breakthrough technology that allows semiconductors to be cooled by laser. Researchers were able to cool semiconductors from 20 degrees Celsius to -20 degrees Celsius. The discovery, published in the journal Nature, is the first time that the cooling of a semiconductor by laser has been demonstrated.

So what does this mean in practical terms? Xiong Qihua, a professor at Nanyang Technological University explains:

"If we are able to harness the power of laser cooling, it would mean that medical devices which require extreme cooling, such as MRI which uses liquid helium, could do away with their bulky refrigerant systems with just with an optical refrigeration device in its place," Xiong said in a news release.

And there's a sustainability bonus:

"Not only that, but it would also remove the need for compressors and coolants in air-conditioning and refrigerators used in our homes and automobiles, saving space, energy and green house gases which are harmful to our ozone layer," he said.

In addition, the breakthrough could lead to the development of computer chips that are able to cool themselves, reducing heat and adding battery life to our gadgets.

Find out more here.

Photo: Nanyang Technological University

— By on January 30, 2013, 8:00 PM PST

Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure