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Lasers Creates New Forms of Metal and Enhances Aircraft Performance

The end result is the formation of a new kind of metal that can cool the plane's electronic brain and heat pumps and allow the craft to retain dominance over any enemy that is also in flight.
by Maria Callier
Office of Scientific Research
Arlington AFB VA (AFNS) Feb 09, 2010
Dr. Chunlei Guo and his team of Air Force Research Laboratory-funded researchers from the University of Rochester are using laser light technology that will help the military create new forms of metal that may guide, attract, and repel liquids and cool small electronic devices.

The researchers discovered a way to transform a shiny piece of metal into one that is pitch black, not by paint, but by using incredibly intense bursts of laser light.

Dr. Guo and his team have been working on creating technology that may enable the Air Force to create an additional kind of metal. The black metal they created absorbs all radiation that shines upon it. With the creation of the black metal, the researchers opened up a whole new horizon for various applications in creating an entirely new class of material.

The key to creating this super-filament is an ultrabrief, ultraintense beam of light called a femtosecond laser pulse. The laser burst lasts only a few quadrillionths of a second. That intense blast forces the surface of the metal to form nanostructures and microstructures that dramatically alter how efficiently light can radiate from the filament.

In addition to increasing the brightness of a bulb, Dr. Guo's process can be used to tune the color of the light as well. His team used a similar process to change the color of nearly any metal to blue, gold, or gray, in addition to the black already noted.

They controlled the size and shape of the nanostructures--and, thus, what colors of light those structures absorb and radiate--to change the amount of each wavelength of light the filament radiates.

The unique nanostructures, which are created from the laser, affect the way liquid molecules interact with metal molecules. The liquid spreads out over the metal because the nanostructures attach themselves to the liquid's molecules more readily than the liquid's molecules bond to each other.

The end result is the formation of a new kind of metal that can cool the plane's electronic brain and heat pumps and allow the craft to retain dominance over any enemy that is also in flight.

Currently, the researchers need only about half an hour to change the surface of metal that is approximately the size of a quarter. Nevertheless, their next goal is to make the metal even more quickly so that they can meet the ever-increasing demands of warfighting.

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