NASA developed a tiny quantum laser to search for water on the moon

NASA developed a tiny quantum laser to search for water on the moon

The new development uses quantum tunnel effects to generate a powerful terahertz laser. The device is used to create an ultra-precision spectrometer that will help to find water on the Moon.

Previous studies have shown that there is a small amount of water on the Moon, but the methods used to measure were not accurate enough to provide the mission with water sources, explained by the authors. Broad spectrometers do not distinguish between water molecules, free hydrogen ions and hydroxyl.

To address this problem, NASA researchers have developed quantum cascade lasers, which generate photons at each electron transition, using the unique quantum properties of thin materials in several atoms.

In these materials, the laser emits photons with a certain frequency, determined by the thickness of successive layers of semiconductors, rather than the elements in the material. In quantum physics, thin layers increase the probability that the photon can then tunnel into the next layer instead of jumping away from the barrier.

When he gets there, he triggers extra photons. Using the material of a generator with 80–100 layers of total thickness less than 10–15 um, the team's source creates a photon cascade with teramer energy.

Researchers note that the creation of traditional optical terager lasers requires a large amount of energy and large installations; such devices are difficult to transport and use in space; a tiny alternative, on the contrary, would be suitable for a moon mission.

On the cover: Comparative image of laser and coins. Photo: NASA