Lasers have changed medicine in many unexpected ways over the decades as the technology has been refined and new applications for it discovered. Masers on the other hand, or Microwave Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation, are actually older than lasers, but they’re yet to see practical use outside the laboratory. That is because for over fifty years scientists were only able to have them work either under very low temperature or pressure, and usually within powerful magnetic fields.
Typically, a ruby core was used within which microwaves bounced, interfered, and became amplified, but the environment required could not be easily replicated in a commercialized device. Now researchers from Britain’s National Physical Laboratory and Imperial College London developed a maser that instead of ruby uses p-terphenyl doped with pentacene, a material that mases at room temperature and pressure and without any outside magnetic fields. The team believes that this technology will see some of its first applications in diagnostic medicine, something we’ll be sure to be excited to report as it comes out.
Announcement from the National Physical Laboratory: MASER power comes out of the cold…
Article in Nature: Room-temperature solid-state maser