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Since the first laser was invented in 1960, they've always given off heat—either as a useful tool, a byproduct or a fictional way to vanquish intergalactic enemies.

But those concentrated beams of light have never been able to cool liquids. University of Washington researchers are the first to solve a decades-old puzzle—figuring out how to make a refrigerate water and other liquids under real-world conditions.

In a study to be published the week of Nov. 16 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team used an infrared laser to cool water by about 36 degrees Fahrenheit—a major breakthrough in the field.

"Typically, when you go to the movies and see Star Wars laser blasters, they heat things up. This is the first example of a laser beam that will refrigerate liquids like water under everyday conditions," said senior author Peter Pauzauskie, UW assistant professor of materials science and engineering. "It was really an open question as to whether this could be done because normally water warms when illuminated."

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