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Boil Water In A Trillionth Of A Second: Ultrafast Heating Of Water

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Novel method opens new paths for experiments with heated samples of biological relevance

 

 Scientists from the Hamburg Center for Free-Electron Laser Science have devised a novel way to boil water in less than a trillionth of a second. The theoretical concept, which has not yet been demonstrated in practice, could heat a small amount of water by as much as 600 degrees Celsius in just half a picosecond (a trillionth of a second). That is much less than the proverbial blink of an eye: one picosecond is to a second what one second is to almost 32 millennia. This would make the technique the fastest water-heating method on earth.
A single terahertz flash can heat the water cloud to 600 degrees centigrade, while leaving all water molecules intact.

 

Credit: Oriol Vendrell/DESY

The novel concept opens up interesting new ways for experiments with heated samples of chemical or biological relevance, as the inventors report in this week’s issue of the scientific journal Angewandte Chemie – International Edition (Nr. 51, 16 December). “Water is the single most important medium in which chemical and biological processes take place,” explains DESY scientist Dr. Oriol Vendrell from the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science CFEL, a cooperation of DESY, the University of Hamburg and the German Max Planck Society. “Water is not just a passive solvent, but plays an important role in the dynamics of biological and chemical processes by stabilising certain chemical compounds and enabling specific reactions.”

All it takes for superfast water heating is a concentrated flash of terahertz radiation. Terahertz radiation consists of electromagnetic waves with a frequency between radio waves and infrared. Terahertz flashes can be generated with devices called free-electron lasers that send accelerated electrons on a well defined slalom course. The particles emit electromagnetic waves in each bend that add up to an intense laser like pulse. The terahertz pulse changes the strength of the interaction between water molecules in a very short time, which immediately start to vibrate violently.

The scientists calculated the interaction of the terahertz flash with bulk water. The simulations were performed at the Supercomputer Center Jülich and used a total of 200,000 hours of processor time by massively parallel computing. On a single processor machine this would correspond to about 20 years of computation. “We have calculated that it should be possible to heat up the liquid to about 600 degrees Celsius within just half a picosecond, obtaining a transiently hot and structureless environment still at the density of the liquid, leaving all water molecules intact,” explains Vendrell.

The novel method can only heat about one nanolitre (billionth of a litre) in one go. This may sound small, but is large enough for most experiments. For comparison, ink-jet printers fire droplets that are as small as one picolitre, which is a thousand times less than a nanolitre.
 

A rendering of the molecular water cloud. 

Credit: Oriol Vendrell/DESY

“The idea is to heat-up the ‘solvent’ so that many molecules start the desired chemical process at the same time and then watch the reaction evolve,” explains Vendrell, who worked out the super heater with co-authors Pankaj Kr. Mishra and Prof. Robin Santra, also of CFEL. Although the hot mini-cloud will fly apart in less than a millisecond (a thousandth of a second), it lasts long enough to unravel everything of interest in thermal reactions such as the combination of small organic molecules to form new substances. The team currently investigates how the intense pulse of terahertz radiation affects different types of molecules dissolved in water, from inorganic to biological systems.

The reaction progress can be probed with ultrashort X-ray flashes like they will be produced by the 3.4-kilometre-long X-ray free-electron laser European XFEL, which currently is being built between the DESY campus in Hamburg and the neighbouring town of Schenefeld. When completed, the European XFEL will be able to generate 27,000 intense X-ray laser flashes per second, which can for example be used to record the different stages of chemical reactions.

One advantage of the heating method is that the terahertz pulse can be very well synchronised with the X-ray flashes to start the experiment and then probe the reaction after a well defined time. “The transient and hot environment achieved by the terahertz pulse could have interesting properties, like a matrix to study activated chemical processes,” says Vendrell. “This will be the subject of further investigations.”

Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron DESY is the leading German accelerator centre and one of the leading in the world. DESY is a member of the Helmholtz Association and receives its funding from the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) (90 percent) and the German federal states of Hamburg and Brandenburg (10 percent). At its locations in Hamburg and Zeuthen near Berlin, DESY develops, builds and operates large particle accelerators, and uses them to investigate the structure of matter. DESY’s combination of photon science and particle physics is unique in Europe.

Contacts and sources:
Dr. Thomas Zoufal
Deutsches Elektronen-Synchrotron DESY

Citation: “Ultrafast Energy Transfer to Liquid Water by Sub-Picosecond High- Intensity Terahertz Pulses: An Ab Initio Molecular Dynamics Study”; Pankaj Kr. Mishra, Oriol Vendrell and Robin Santra;Angewandte Chemie – International Edition, Vol. 52, Nr. 51, p. 13685-13687, 16. Dezember 2013; DOI: 10.1002/anie.201305991

 



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    Total 13 comments
    • George

      Just wondering. How would this make my life any better?:Will it make me richer,or more sucessful with women? Will this process help my career or help me afford Obamacare?
      No offence, but WHO CARES?

      • Hannon

        Perhaps it has practical energy applications, such as steam turbines? Or this may end up being a component for long over due water powered cars? Maybe, steam that expands that rapidly could also have military applications as propellants for artillery or firearms? Perhaps it could open the door for applying this tech to other materials for use in metallurgy, or bomb making? Or it could be a half witted useless theory.

        • BillyShope

          As a retired automotive engineer, I immediately thought of the steam powered car, which has always had borderline practicality…at best…due to the startup delay. I wish the author had scaled up the energy requirements for such an application.

    • GBCIR

      ” terahertz radiation water heating”

      TSA Airport scan anyone?

    • wizard

      Quick coffee. Available before you think. :smile:

    • POC2014

      If you want to do it very quickly just combine Ammonium Nitrate with Carbonate Calcium in a small zip lock bag, shake well and put it in water. The water will be over 212 F!

    • Be4itstoo0ldnews

      They will just use the tech as a weapon…they always do. Humans need to straighten up or die… period.

    • Anonymous

      Can you say a Microwave in different frequency? did you know Microwaves are banned in Russia and Japan. why? because it kills.

      take water and microwave it then let it cool and water your plant, it will die.

      take dog food and cat food and microwave it let it cool and feed your cat or dog, they will die.

      try eating microwave food 3 times a day for 30 days and see what will happen to you. Microwave everything food, water, coffee, tea, and see what will happen to you after 30-days straight 3-times a day.

    • Plastics Man

      Excellent observation CBCIR!
      That one “got by me”!

      One and the same……..terahertz radiation water heating.

      And, the human body is 80% composed of water.
      And the terahertz radiation actually changes the compositional make up of the individual’s DNA that is exposed to it!
      All in a trillionth of a second exposure!

      Good god, I am GLAD I have NEVER allowed these monsters to put me through one of their “monster-making devices” at some airport in the united Fascist states of Military TERROR!

      What do you think the game plan is?
      To create a “zombie” like creature that is NOT human at an appointed time in the future?
      Kind of a “delayed reaction” of some kind to change DNA and “make” something organic in nature entirely “different” at some appointed time in the future?

      What do you think the “catalysis” to be administered could be to “cause the simultaneous DNA change” in all exposed individuals?

      What an “instant” army they would be!

    • Call It Like It Is...

      This would make my life a lot easier, but God says you’re screwed… LMAO

      This could make my life much easier by generating extremely HOT water to turn the turbines in huge generators, thus making FREE Electricity…

    • Mayhem

      By the nanolitre! Might take a while to make enough for a cup, don’t you think? That is if we ever figure out how to make a flash of terahertz radiation, that is.

    • Mayhem

      Woah up there, Plastic Man, we haven’t even figured out how to to this. It’s theoretical and interesting is all. It’d probably be used to make bodies explode if ever it was effectively weaponised but we are nowhere near there yet.

    • GBCIR

      Plastics Man: You are correct.

      But don’t stress because the government / military / money-philes have lost.

      Too many have awoken to their anti-life stupidity.

      It’s the BEATS created when frequencies mix. For example we live in the 7.83Hz Schumann resonance domain. Mix it with wifi / cell phone towers and create a heterodyne (standing) wave in the resonate domain.

      It can be used for LIFE or anti-life.

      I add it was a DEW that dustified the WTC on 911.

      Phi Mod9 is the correct math should you wish to investigate further…

      May Peace Prevail on Earth

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