Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Cloud lasers: Hunting quantum secrets in the skies - environment - 30 November 2010 - New Scientist

Cloud lasers: Hunting quantum secrets in the skies: He thinks that a beam of infrared photons at precisely the right wavelength could stimulate emission from moisture in the air and trigger cloud formation. It's not the clouds themselves he is interested in, though: his idea is to harness the energy locked up in moist air. The trick, he says, would be to set up a pair of parallel mirrors with a constant supply of cool, moist air flowing between them. Shining a beam of infrared photons into this space should trigger the formation of water droplets, releasing more infrared radiation in the process.

If the mirrors are carefully aligned, the radiation should bounce back and forth through the moist air, stimulating even more emission. Tatartchenko says this will amplify the incoming beam. In other words, it will create a sort of cloud laser. By extracting a little of the beam - perhaps by making one mirror slightly transparent, as in a regular laser - he suggests that such a device could be used to generate usable energy.

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