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Photo-atomic Refrigerator

  1. Apr 22, 2010 #1
    Hi everyone,

    I'm a computer scientist by training (BS in Computer Science, University of South Florida) and also have a strong interest in physics. One thing I've always wondered about is whether it is possible to convert heat energy into another form of energy.

    It is my understanding that it is possible to create an electromagnetic wave of a particular frequency using an energy level slightly lower than the first electron orbit energy level of an atom to stimulate a spontaneous photonic emission. Since the energy required to emit the photon is greater than the stimulation energy, the atom cools slightly because some of its heat energy is used to emit the photon.

    My question to those who are more knowledgeable about atomic physics is whether it is technically possible to use this effect to create a cooling device that is more efficient than current heat pump technologies. Would a near-perfect efficiency photo-voltaic device be required to make it efficient and would it scale reasonably?

    Thanks for your input :)
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 22, 2010 #2
    Uh... there would be several problems here.
    The thickness of the "food product" might be such that the cooling effect using that scenario would not be able to affect the inner parts correctly.
    The second would be the enormous cost of the technology.

    Standard refrigeration methods(utilizing conductive and convective heat dissipation) are really the best and most cost effective method for bulk cooling of foods.
  4. Apr 22, 2010 #3
    I know that it would be cost prohibitive right now and may need large improvements in other technologies to be made first. I'm just curious if it's possible. I wouldn't expect it to be practical for several decades.

    Edit: As for the thickness issue, is this due to a limitation of how much you could theoretically cool an atom using this effect?
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2010
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