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No light bulbs were harmed in the making of this new metal.

One weakness inherent in all modern electronics is the heat they produce as waste energy while making their magic. From the lightest and most efficient laptop computers to the advanced multi-million dollar avionics systems in fighter jets, this waste heat can become a problem. As it would happen, the United States Air Force is mostly concerned with only one of these examples.

If left unchecked, the heat created by modern workhorse processors and other high speed microchips can irreparably damage them. An electronics failure of this nature is not an option for fighter pilots. Modern fighter jets, especially the newest fifth generation platforms like the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II, rely heavily on their computer systems to retain their air superiority and make the US's jet fighter fleet the most effective in the world.

The United States Air Force Office of Scientific Research (AFOSR) funds the research of one Dr. Chunlei Guo of the University of Rochester. DailyTech recently reported on Guo's work in high speed lasers, known as femtosecond lasers, in which he was able to create super bright incandescent light bulb filaments by blasting nano and microscopic patterns into the metal. His laser is also able to change the color emitted by the light bulb, as well as the color of raw metals, by forming different patterns on their surfaces. One possible color is a very absorbent shade of black in which the modified metal absorbs almost 100% of the radiation that finds it.

However, what the AFOSR is interested in is not brighter light bulbs, but another property that a metal surface can be made to have, which is an improved sort of capillary action. Guo's laser can be used to etch patterns into the surface that create an environment where the liquid molecules actually stick to the metal better than they stick to themselves. This creates a capillary action where the metal can even pull liquid "uphill." This is of interest to the Air Force because it could be used to enhance cooling systems for their fighters and other aircraft, further lessening the chance of an on-board electronics failure due to stressful conditions.

Khon-Thon Tsen of Arizona State University has used his femtosecond laser to destroy viruses while theoretically leaving delicate human cells unscathed. The international Teramobile project seeks to turn a 30-year-old idea into reality by firing terawatt power femtosecond lasers into thunderclouds, inducing cloud-to-ground lightning. And Guo's laser has already proven its metal sculpting capabilities in various ways.

Guo's laser, using only normal 120-volt wall power, strikes a metal surface with the power of the entire national energy grid at a diameter smaller than a pin point. It is able to pattern a surface the size of a quarter in about 30 minutes, but Guo's team plans to improve this speed.

There will likely be more discoveries and improvements in the future based on Guo's micropatterning laser process. Microscopically altering the surface of metal has been shown to be able to achieve quite a few interesting effects in the past decade. As technology improves, so too will the research aperture expand in this relatively new field. Watch out, transparent aluminum, invisible titanium could be on its way.

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Ship or submarine hull
By squezy on 7/22/2009 12:31:57 PM , Rating: 2
Could'nt this technique be used on ship or submarine hull to reduce the friction?

If the water sticks to the metal metter then itself, this means the water directly around the ship would never change. The only friction remaining would be water against water.

This reminds me of a small submarine in Seaquest.

RE: Ship or submarine hull
By AnnihilatorX on 7/22/2009 7:28:03 PM , Rating: 2
No. The sticking force is likely to be tiny. Any movement of the metal surface in water at great speed will bear enough force to unstick the water on the surface and you get turbulent flow around the surface meaning higher resulting drag.

RE: Ship or submarine hull
By mattclary on 7/23/2009 10:15:19 AM , Rating: 2
Not necessarily. Think about it. What would drag the water away from the hull? Friction with other water molecules. If the water would rather stick to the hull than other water molecules... He might have a point.

RE: Ship or submarine hull
By HotFoot on 7/24/2009 8:14:06 AM , Rating: 2
Go look up 'no slip condition' and 'boundary layer' along side 'fluid mechanics' and you'll realise why this post is ridiculous.

There have been studies with micro-grooves aligned with the local direction of the flow that can reduce friction. These work by limiting the effective surface area that larger turbulent eddies can touch. Think of a bunch of whorls rolling around on ridges instead of on a flat surface. These structures are orders of magnitude larger than the structures being created with this femtosecond laser system.

"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson
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