Physicists discover way to boil water in half picosecond
2013-12-18 0:00

By Sonia D’Costa | DigitalJournal

How long does it take to boil water? Physicists at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science (CFEL) in Hamburg have shown, at least in theory, that it is possible to boil water in just half a picosecond.

A picosecond is equal to one trillionth of a second. If an object were to move at the speed of light for one picosecond, it will move 0.30mm.

In their report published in Angewandte Chemie, the German physicists say that the concept opens up new ways of conducting experiments with water. Oriol Vendrell, a Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron (DESY) scientist at CFEL, says: “Water is the single most important medium in which chemical and biological processes take place. Water is not just a passive solvent, but plays an important role in the dynamics of biological and chemical processes by stabilizing certain chemical compounds and enabling specific reactions.”

So, how does one boil water in just half a picosecond? One would require terahertz radiation, which comprises electromagnetic waves of a frequency between the frequencies of microwave and infrared waves. There are several ways to create terahertz flashes, but CFEL scientists used a free-electron laser to do so. The terahertz flash so created was found to increase the intensity of the interaction among water molecules in the shortest time possible, making the water molecules vibrate fast and generate a lot of heat.


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