Researchers at the National Physical Laboratory and Imperial College London have invented masers that could detect cancer and faint alien signals.
This electronic device can detect a tiny tumor before it metastasizes. It can also power a radiotelescope that could connect earthlings to extraterrestrial beings on other planets. This "new type of electronic device" could change the world in the same way lasers did.
Perhaps the one application that is most relevant is more sensitive forms of body scanners. Sensitivity matters with body scanners, because detecting a tumour before it metastasizes is so useful. If this device can make even just a slightly more sensitive body scanner, it could put smiles on people's faces - they'll still be around to smile.
Let's dream here: you could make a radio telescope that was very low-noise, 100 times more sensitive than the best at the moment... this type of maser could be used to detect some extraterrestrial intelligence that hasn't been detected.
Dr. Oxborrow's team found a way to simplify the use of this new device, although masers aren't exactly new. The first ones were invented in the '50s but they were impractical. One type needed extreme magnetic fields, vacuum and ultra-low pressures. The other needed temperatures that approached absolute zero. The masers required huge magnets, vacuum chambers and special refrigerant liquids, which all made them impractical for everyday use.
The new maser works at room temperature and do not require special conditions. They work thanks to a new crystal developed at the NPL called dope p-terphenyl (pic below). The crystal lets masers become as ubiquitous as lasers in the near future.
'Maser' actually stands for Microwave Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. They were first described by Nikolay Basoy and Alexander Prokhorov of Lebedev Institute of Physics in May 1952. Their research won thema Nobel Prize in Physics in 1964, which led to the development of real devices. The first maser was made in America by Charles H. Townes, J. P. Gordon, and H. J. Zeiger at Columbia University a year later.