Lasers Defying Gravity
Reported January 2011
ROCHESTER, NY (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- Plants and trees fight gravity by pulling large amounts of water from the ground up through their leaves to survive. Now, a powerful laser can transform metal to pull liquid uphill and that breakthrough has far-reaching potential.
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After a stroke two years ago, Felicia Johnson has her blood drawn frequently. For her, it’s a necessary evil.
“You have to do what you got to do to stay alive,” Felicia Johnson, stroke survivor, told Ivanhoe.
Now, optical physicist Chunlei Guo, could eliminate the way blood is traditionally drawn.
“People don’t need to draw many, many tubes of blood. To get a test, they may just need a couple of drops, then have all the tests done because you don’t have to waste any blood,” Chunlei Guo, Ph.D., an optical physicist at the University of Rochester said.
The key is the femtosecond laser. Using ultra-fast bursts of laser light, it can change the surface of any metal.
“The peak power is sort of equivalent to the wattage of the entire North America power grid,” Dr. Guo said.
The newly laser-etched metal allows liquid to climb uphill and spread out, so a drop of blood could be channeled to a sensor for diagnostics.
“We can guide the liquid any direction we want,” Dr. Guo said.
The technique can also change the color of metal, making gold aluminum, blue titanium and gold platinum possible. It could also lead to faster computers.
“The reason we cannot build a faster computer today is because if the computer runs too fast, it will create too much heat,” Dr. Guo said.
The ability for a coolant to spread out across a computer chip would prevent overheating. As a patient, Felicia wants easier blood draws, but as someone who draws blood for a living, she’s concerned.
“I hope it doesn't go through. That eliminates my job!” Johnson says laughing.
For a little perspective on how fast this laser is, a femtosecond is to a second what a second is to about 32 million years. Chunlei Guo says the technology is ready now.
The Materials Research Society, the American Physical Society, and the Optical Society contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.
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University of Rochester
Rochester, New York
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