Sunlight to power the lasers?

Sunlight to power the lasers?

A laser powered by sunlight could be used in place of fossil fuels to start chemical processes for energy-intensive production of fertilizers, scientists say. Conventional lasers are powered by electricity. Even if renewable generation electricity is used, this requires additional infrastructure and energy is invariably lost along the way.

Dr. Erik Gauger of the Heriot-Watt Institute of Photonics and Quantum Sciences has outlined, in a study published in the New Journal of Physics, how a new laser powered by sunlight could work. He worked with a team of international colleagues and they took inspiration for the new system from nature.

Gauger said: “Sunlight is abundant, but because it is diluted and variable, it is difficult to collect, store and harness. Nature has already found a way to do this through photosynthesis, in which plants transform sunlight, water and carbon into food and energy ".

" We have designed a bio-inspired system for a new laser capable of transforming natural sunlight into a coherent laser beam ". Other scientists have already begun work on solar-powered lasers, but those designed so far require elaborate systems and high levels of refrigeration.

Image: Depositphotos

Gauger and his colleagues from Italy and from Mexico they turned to purple bacteria, a group of photosynthetic organisms found in ponds and lakes, as inspiration for their new system. "Purple bacteria have ring antennae with a reaction center in their middle that allows them to convert sunlight into chemical energy."

"If we can find a way to eliminate the reaction centers and replace them with a much simpler structure, we could use a lot of those modified photosynthetic structures to convert sunlight into a laser beam under ambient conditions" .

“Specifically, our design would be self-contained and would require neither an external power source, nor complicated large surrounding lenses. It would be lightweight and portable with all-natural organic components. It would be the ultimate source of green energy ”. “We have all these ingredients available, we just have to find the best way to play molecular legos and assemble the structures.”

Gauger says the end result could be a low-energy, but still useful, solar-powered laser for a wide range of applications. “Solar-powered lasers could be used to generate green energy or to carry out chemical processes. This could help contain the carbon footprint of processes such as fertilizer production, which is currently responsible for 1-2% of global energy consumption ".

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