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NPL, Imperial College create room-temperature maser, promise more sensitive beams


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Masers, or microwave lasers, have rarely been as viable as their regular counterparts; they need temperatures near absolute zero, exotic vacuum chambers or strong magnets just to run at all, which safely rules out carrying a maser as a pocket pointer. The National Physical Laboratory and Imperial College London might put that gap in practicality to bed after developing a maser that can run at room temperatures. Instead of using ruby to boost the microwave strength, the scientists rely on a less pronounceable p-terphenyl crystal treated with pentacene that can handle ordinary amounts of heat. There's still much work left in refining the technology: it has yet to stay active for sustained periods, only works in a narrow bandwidth and chews through an ample amount of power. Once it's given the appropriate polish, however, the extra sensitivity of the improved maser could be a boon for medical scanning, bomb disposal or even future space communication that could punch through the atmosphere.

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