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A 14-year-old South Carolina boy has joined researchers at Tokyo Institute of Technology to develop laser propulsion, a technology dubbed the clean engine of the future.

Benjamin Rosenberg, who just became a high school freshman in August, has teamed up this week with Takashi Yabe, a professor at the university, for a laser propulsion project that involves the use of miniature laser beams.

Rosenberg’s interest in laser propulsion began last year when he read an article in a science magazine about Yabe successfully performing basic experiments on laser propulsion using only water and a laser beam. Rosenberg then began his own experiments.

He borrowed a laser-generating device from an acquaintance of his father, John, and tried to move paper dipped in liquids, such as water and oil, with the power of laser.

He then contacted Yabe, and the two met at an international conference in the United States last November. The encounter led Yabe to arrange a three-week trip to Japan for his young protege.

Meanwhile, Rosenberg made further progress in laser propulsion experiments in the U.S. With the assistance of Wright-Patterson Air Force base in Ohio, he said he managed to fly a small paper plane using a powerful laser.

Rosenberg’s work at Tokyo Institute of Technology begins in earnest next week. The project involves developing applied technology for laser propulsion using a miniature, light-weight fiber laser device developed by Mitsubishi Cable Industries Ltd.

Rosenberg said his dream is to become a scientist. He plans to present his findings at an international conference opening in Sendai on Oct. 20.

Yabe, an expert in applied laser technology, said laser propulsion, designed to propel spacecraft, has many potential applications.

“The future will be in the hands of talented young people like Benjamin,” Yabe said.

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