Laser-based system now has the ability to capture moment-to-moment details of high-speed processes such as hypersonic propulsion and protein folding.
A new frequency comb setup can capture the moment-by-moment details of carbon dioxide gas escaping from a nozzle at supersonic speeds in an air-filled chamber, followed by rapid oscillations of gas due to complex aerodynamics within the chamber. The data plot shows the absorbance of light (vertical) over time (horizontal left to right) across a range of frequencies (horizontal forward to back).
Credit: G. Mathews/University of Colorado Boulder
From monitoring concentrations of greenhouse gases to detecting COVID in the breath, laser systems known as frequency combs can identify specific molecules as simple as carbon dioxide and as complex as monoclonal antibodies with unprecedented accuracy and sensitivity. Amazing as they are, however, frequency combs have been limited in how fast they can capture a high-speed process such as hypersonic propulsion or the folding of proteins into their final three-dimensional shapes.