Scientists Can Boil Water In A Trillionth Of A Second

A single terahertz flash can heat the water cloud to 600 degrees centigrade
A single terahertz flash can heat the water cloud to 600 degrees centigrade

Scientists have figured out how to heat water to 600 degrees C in one trillionth of a second.

And yes, while it seems like a belated bid to get on our list of ridiculous science moments of 2013, it's real research with real implications.

German researchers at DESY describe in a new paper their theoretical technique to transfer energy to water in the fastest way ever conceived.

The idea is to essentially bombard water with intense bursts of terehertz radiation, described as electromagnetic waves with a wavelength somewhere between microwaves and infrared light.

The water will heat almost instantly, and retain its original density for at least a milisecond before it flies apart. That amount of time might sound short, but it's actually a pretty long time in scientific terms, giving researchers the ability to use the heat to trigger other chemical reactions and note their results.

The technique could enable new experiments into how heat affects different molecules, and how those short reactions occur.

"The idea is to heat-up the 'solvent' so that many molecules start the desired chemical process at the same time and then watch the reaction evolve," said DESY scientist Dr. Oriol Vendrell.

"The transient and hot environment achieved by the terahertz pulse could have interesting properties, like a matrix to study activated chemical processes."

The researchers are now looking to carry out their experiments for real - a task which should be possible once the new European X-ray Free-Electron Laser facility is complete in 2015.

But no, a commercial application of the tech inside a new kettle is not likely.