Laser

Laser

Overview


A laser is a device that emits light
Light
Light or visible light is electromagnetic radiation that is visible to the human eye, and is responsible for the sense of sight. Visible light has wavelength in a range from about 380 nanometres to about 740 nm, with a frequency range of about 405 THz to 790 THz...

 (electromagnetic radiation
Electromagnetic radiation
Electromagnetic radiation is a form of energy that exhibits wave-like behavior as it travels through space...

) through a process of optical amplification based on the stimulated emission
Stimulated emission
In optics, stimulated emission is the process by which an atomic electron interacting with an electromagnetic wave of a certain frequency may drop to a lower energy level, transferring its energy to that field. A photon created in this manner has the same phase, frequency, polarization, and...

 of photon
Photon
In physics, a photon is an elementary particle, the quantum of the electromagnetic interaction and the basic unit of light and all other forms of electromagnetic radiation. It is also the force carrier for the electromagnetic force...

s. The term "laser" originated as an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. The emitted laser light is notable for its high degree of spatial and temporal coherence
Coherence (physics)
In physics, coherence is a property of waves that enables stationary interference. More generally, coherence describes all properties of the correlation between physical quantities of a wave....

, unattainable using other technologies.

Spatial coherence typically is expressed through the output being a narrow beam which is diffraction-limited
Gaussian beam
In optics, a Gaussian beam is a beam of electromagnetic radiation whose transverse electric field and intensity distributions are well approximated by Gaussian functions. Many lasers emit beams that approximate a Gaussian profile, in which case the laser is said to be operating on the fundamental...

, often a so-called "pencil beam." Laser beams can be focused to very tiny spots, achieving a very high irradiance
Irradiance
Irradiance is the power of electromagnetic radiation per unit area incident on a surface. Radiant emittance or radiant exitance is the power per unit area radiated by a surface. The SI units for all of these quantities are watts per square meter , while the cgs units are ergs per square centimeter...

.
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Encyclopedia


A laser is a device that emits light
Light
Light or visible light is electromagnetic radiation that is visible to the human eye, and is responsible for the sense of sight. Visible light has wavelength in a range from about 380 nanometres to about 740 nm, with a frequency range of about 405 THz to 790 THz...

 (electromagnetic radiation
Electromagnetic radiation
Electromagnetic radiation is a form of energy that exhibits wave-like behavior as it travels through space...

) through a process of optical amplification based on the stimulated emission
Stimulated emission
In optics, stimulated emission is the process by which an atomic electron interacting with an electromagnetic wave of a certain frequency may drop to a lower energy level, transferring its energy to that field. A photon created in this manner has the same phase, frequency, polarization, and...

 of photon
Photon
In physics, a photon is an elementary particle, the quantum of the electromagnetic interaction and the basic unit of light and all other forms of electromagnetic radiation. It is also the force carrier for the electromagnetic force...

s. The term "laser" originated as an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. The emitted laser light is notable for its high degree of spatial and temporal coherence
Coherence (physics)
In physics, coherence is a property of waves that enables stationary interference. More generally, coherence describes all properties of the correlation between physical quantities of a wave....

, unattainable using other technologies.

Spatial coherence typically is expressed through the output being a narrow beam which is diffraction-limited
Gaussian beam
In optics, a Gaussian beam is a beam of electromagnetic radiation whose transverse electric field and intensity distributions are well approximated by Gaussian functions. Many lasers emit beams that approximate a Gaussian profile, in which case the laser is said to be operating on the fundamental...

, often a so-called "pencil beam." Laser beams can be focused to very tiny spots, achieving a very high irradiance
Irradiance
Irradiance is the power of electromagnetic radiation per unit area incident on a surface. Radiant emittance or radiant exitance is the power per unit area radiated by a surface. The SI units for all of these quantities are watts per square meter , while the cgs units are ergs per square centimeter...

. Or they can be launched into a beam of very low divergence in order to concentrate their power at a large distance.

Temporal (or longitudinal) coherence implies a polarized wave at a single frequency whose phase is correlated over a relatively large distance (the coherence length
Coherence length
In physics, coherence length is the propagation distance from a coherent source to a point where an electromagnetic wave maintains a specified degree of coherence. The significance is that interference will be strong within a coherence length of the source, but not beyond it...

) along the beam. A beam produced by a thermal or other incoherent light source has an instantaneous amplitude and phase
Phase (waves)
Phase in waves is the fraction of a wave cycle which has elapsed relative to an arbitrary point.-Formula:The phase of an oscillation or wave refers to a sinusoidal function such as the following:...

 which vary randomly with respect to time and position, and thus a very short coherence length.

Most so-called "single wavelength" lasers actually produce radiation in several modes having slightly different frequencies (wavelengths), often not in a single polarization. And although temporal coherence implies monochromaticity, there are even lasers that emit a broad spectrum of light, or emit different wavelengths of light simultaneously. There are some lasers which are not single spatial mode and consequently their light beams diverge
Beam divergence
The beam divergence of an electromagnetic beam is an angular measure of the increase in beam diameter or radius with distance from the optical aperture or antenna aperture from which the electromagnetic beam emerges. The term is relevant only in the "far field", away from any focus of the beam...

 more than required by the diffraction
Diffraction
Diffraction refers to various phenomena which occur when a wave encounters an obstacle. Italian scientist Francesco Maria Grimaldi coined the word "diffraction" and was the first to record accurate observations of the phenomenon in 1665...

 limit. However all such devices are classified as "lasers" based on their method of producing that light: stimulated emission. Lasers are employed in applications where light of the required spatial or temporal coherence could not be produced using simpler technologies.

Terminology



The word laser started as an acronym for "light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation"; in modern usage "light" broadly denotes electromagnetic radiation of any frequency, not only visible light, hence infrared laser, ultraviolet laser, X-ray laser, and so on. Because the microwave predecessor of the laser, the maser
Maser
A maser is a device that produces coherent electromagnetic waves through amplification by stimulated emission. Historically, “maser” derives from the original, upper-case acronym MASER, which stands for "Microwave Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation"...

, was developed first, devices of this sort operating at microwave and radio frequencies
Radio frequency
Radio frequency is a rate of oscillation in the range of about 3 kHz to 300 GHz, which corresponds to the frequency of radio waves, and the alternating currents which carry radio signals...

 are referred to as "masers" rather than "microwave lasers" or "radio lasers". In the early technical literature, especially at Bell Telephone Laboratories, the laser was called an optical maser; this term is now obsolete.

A laser which produces light by itself is technically an optical oscillator rather than an optical amplifier
Optical amplifier
An optical amplifier is a device that amplifies an optical signal directly, without the need to first convert it to an electrical signal. An optical amplifier may be thought of as a laser without an optical cavity, or one in which feedback from the cavity is suppressed...

 as suggested by the acronym. It has been humorously noted that the acronym LOSER, for "light oscillation by stimulated emission of radiation," would have been more correct. With the widespread use of the original acronym as a common noun, actual optical amplifiers have come to be referred to as "laser amplifiers", notwithstanding the apparent redundancy in that designation.

The back-formed
Back-formation
In etymology, back-formation is the process of creating a new lexeme, usually by removing actual or supposed affixes. The resulting neologism is called a back-formation, a term coined by James Murray in 1889...

 verb to lase is frequently used in the field, meaning "to produce laser light," especially in reference to the gain medium of a laser; when a laser is operating it is said to be "lasing." Further use of the words laser and maser in an extended sense, not referring to laser technology or devices, can be seen in usages such as astrophysical maser
Astrophysical maser
An astrophysical maser is a naturally occurring source of stimulated spectral line emission, typically in the microwave portion of the electromagnetic spectrum...

and atom laser
Atom laser
An atom laser is a coherent state of propagating atoms. They are created out of a Bose–Einstein condensate of atoms that are output coupled using various techniques. Much like an optical laser, an atom laser is a coherent beam that behaves like a wave. There has been some argument that the term...

.

Design




A laser consists of a gain medium
Active laser medium
The active laser medium is the source of optical gain within a laser. The gain results from the stimulated emission of electronic or molecular transitions to a lower energy state from a higher energy state...

 inside a highly reflective optical cavity
Optical cavity
An optical cavity or optical resonator is an arrangement of mirrors that forms a standing wave cavity resonator for light waves. Optical cavities are a major component of lasers, surrounding the gain medium and providing feedback of the laser light. They are also used in optical parametric...

, as well as a means to supply energy to the gain medium. The gain medium is a material with properties that allow it to amplify light by stimulated emission. In its simplest form, a cavity consists of two mirrors arranged such that light bounces back and forth, each time passing through the gain medium. Typically one of the two mirrors, the output coupler
Output coupler
An output coupler is a partially reflective mirror used in lasers to extract a portion of the laser beam from the optical resonator....

, is partially transparent. The output laser beam is emitted through this mirror.

Light of a specific wavelength that passes through the gain medium is amplified
Optical amplifier
An optical amplifier is a device that amplifies an optical signal directly, without the need to first convert it to an electrical signal. An optical amplifier may be thought of as a laser without an optical cavity, or one in which feedback from the cavity is suppressed...

 (increases in power); the surrounding mirrors ensure that most of the light makes many passes through the gain medium, being amplified repeatedly. Part of the light that is between the mirrors (that is, within the cavity) passes through the partially transparent mirror and escapes as a beam of light
Light beam
A light beam or beam of light is a narrow projection of light energy radiating from a source into a beam. Sunlight is a natural example of a light beam when filtered through various mediums...

.

The process of supplying the energy
Energy
In physics, energy is an indirectly observed quantity. It is often understood as the ability a physical system has to do work on other physical systems...

 required for the amplification is called pumping
Laser pumping
Laser pumping is the act of energy transfer from an external source into the gain medium of a laser. The energy is absorbed in the medium, producing excited states in its atoms. When the number of particles in one excited state exceeds the number of particles in the ground state or a less-excited...

. The energy is typically supplied as an electrical current or as light at a different wavelength. Such light may be provided by a flash lamp or perhaps another laser. Most practical lasers contain additional elements that affect properties such as the wavelength of the emitted light and the shape of the beam.

Laser physics





The gain medium of a laser is a material of controlled purity, size, concentration, and shape, which amplifies the beam by the process of stimulated emission. It can be of any state
State of matter
States of matter are the distinct forms that different phases of matter take on. Solid, liquid and gas are the most common states of matter on Earth. However, much of the baryonic matter of the universe is in the form of hot plasma, both as rarefied interstellar medium and as dense...

: gas
Gas
Gas is one of the three classical states of matter . Near absolute zero, a substance exists as a solid. As heat is added to this substance it melts into a liquid at its melting point , boils into a gas at its boiling point, and if heated high enough would enter a plasma state in which the electrons...

, liquid
Liquid
Liquid is one of the three classical states of matter . Like a gas, a liquid is able to flow and take the shape of a container. Some liquids resist compression, while others can be compressed. Unlike a gas, a liquid does not disperse to fill every space of a container, and maintains a fairly...

, solid
Solid
Solid is one of the three classical states of matter . It is characterized by structural rigidity and resistance to changes of shape or volume. Unlike a liquid, a solid object does not flow to take on the shape of its container, nor does it expand to fill the entire volume available to it like a...

, or plasma
Plasma (physics)
In physics and chemistry, plasma is a state of matter similar to gas in which a certain portion of the particles are ionized. Heating a gas may ionize its molecules or atoms , thus turning it into a plasma, which contains charged particles: positive ions and negative electrons or ions...

. The gain medium absorbs pump energy, which raises some electrons into higher-energy ("excited
Excited state
Excitation is an elevation in energy level above an arbitrary baseline energy state. In physics there is a specific technical definition for energy level which is often associated with an atom being excited to an excited state....

") quantum states. Particles can interact with light by either absorbing or emitting photons. Emission can be spontaneous or stimulated. In the latter case, the photon is emitted in the same direction as the light that is passing by. When the number of particles in one excited state exceeds the number of particles in some lower-energy state, population inversion
Population inversion
In physics, specifically statistical mechanics, a population inversion occurs when a system exists in state with more members in an excited state than in lower energy states...

 is achieved and the amount of stimulated emission due to light that passes through is larger than the amount of absorption. Hence, the light is amplified. By itself, this makes an optical amplifier
Optical amplifier
An optical amplifier is a device that amplifies an optical signal directly, without the need to first convert it to an electrical signal. An optical amplifier may be thought of as a laser without an optical cavity, or one in which feedback from the cavity is suppressed...

. When an optical amplifier is placed inside a resonant optical cavity, one obtains a laser.

The light generated by stimulated emission is very similar to the input signal in terms of wavelength, phase
Phase (waves)
Phase in waves is the fraction of a wave cycle which has elapsed relative to an arbitrary point.-Formula:The phase of an oscillation or wave refers to a sinusoidal function such as the following:...

, and polarization. This gives laser light its characteristic coherence, and allows it to maintain the uniform polarization and often monochromaticity established by the optical cavity design.

The optical resonator
Resonator
A resonator is a device or system that exhibits resonance or resonant behavior, that is, it naturally oscillates at some frequencies, called its resonant frequencies, with greater amplitude than at others. The oscillations in a resonator can be either electromagnetic or mechanical...

 is sometimes referred to as an "optical cavity", but this is a misnomer: lasers use open resonators as opposed to the literal cavity that would be employed at microwave frequencies in a maser
Maser
A maser is a device that produces coherent electromagnetic waves through amplification by stimulated emission. Historically, “maser” derives from the original, upper-case acronym MASER, which stands for "Microwave Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation"...

.
The resonator typically consists of two mirrors between which a coherent beam of light travels in both directions, reflecting back on itself so that an average photon will pass through the gain medium repeatedly before it is emitted from the output aperture or lost to diffraction or absorption.
If the gain (amplification) in the medium is larger than the resonator losses, then the power of the recirculating light can rise exponentially
Exponential growth
Exponential growth occurs when the growth rate of a mathematical function is proportional to the function's current value...

. But each stimulated emission event returns an atom from its excited state to the ground state, reducing the gain of the medium. With increasing beam power the net gain (gain times loss) reduces to unity and the gain medium is said to be saturated. In a continuous wave (CW) laser, the balance of pump power against gain saturation and cavity losses produces an equilibrium value of the laser power inside the cavity; this equilibrium determines the operating point of the laser. If the applied pump power is too small, the gain will never be sufficient to overcome the resonator losses, and laser light will not be produced. The minimum pump power needed to begin laser action is called the lasing threshold
Lasing threshold
The lasing threshold is the lowest excitation level at which a laser's output is dominated by stimulated emission rather than by spontaneous emission. Below the threshold, the laser's output power rises slowly with increasing excitation. Above threshold, the slope of power vs. excitation is orders...

. The gain medium will amplify any photons passing through it, regardless of direction; but only the photons in a spatial mode supported by the resonator will pass more than once through the medium and receive substantial amplification.

The beam in the cavity and the output beam of the laser, when travelling in free space (or a homogenous medium) rather than waveguides (as in an optical fiber
Optical fiber
An optical fiber is a flexible, transparent fiber made of a pure glass not much wider than a human hair. It functions as a waveguide, or "light pipe", to transmit light between the two ends of the fiber. The field of applied science and engineering concerned with the design and application of...

 laser), can be approximated as a Gaussian beam
Gaussian beam
In optics, a Gaussian beam is a beam of electromagnetic radiation whose transverse electric field and intensity distributions are well approximated by Gaussian functions. Many lasers emit beams that approximate a Gaussian profile, in which case the laser is said to be operating on the fundamental...

 in most lasers; such beams exhibit the minimum divergence for a given diameter. However some high power lasers may be multimode, with the transverse mode
Transverse mode
A transverse mode of a beam of electromagnetic radiation is a particular electromagnetic field pattern of radiation measured in a plane perpendicular to the propagation direction of the beam...

s often approximated using Hermite
Hermite polynomials
In mathematics, the Hermite polynomials are a classical orthogonal polynomial sequence that arise in probability, such as the Edgeworth series; in combinatorics, as an example of an Appell sequence, obeying the umbral calculus; in numerical analysis as Gaussian quadrature; and in physics, where...

-Gaussian or Laguerre
Laguerre polynomials
In mathematics, the Laguerre polynomials, named after Edmond Laguerre ,are the canonical solutions of Laguerre's equation:x\,y + \,y' + n\,y = 0\,which is a second-order linear differential equation....

-Gaussian functions. It has been shown that unstable laser resonators (not used in most lasers) produce fractal shaped beams. Near the beam "waist" (or focal region
Focus (optics)
In geometrical optics, a focus, also called an image point, is the point where light rays originating from a point on the object converge. Although the focus is conceptually a point, physically the focus has a spatial extent, called the blur circle. This non-ideal focusing may be caused by...

) it is highly collimated
Collimated light
Collimated light is light whose rays are parallel, and therefore will spread slowly as it propagates. The word is related to "collinear" and implies light that does not disperse with distance , or that will disperse minimally...

: the wavefronts are planar, normal to the direction of propagation, with no beam divergence
Beam divergence
The beam divergence of an electromagnetic beam is an angular measure of the increase in beam diameter or radius with distance from the optical aperture or antenna aperture from which the electromagnetic beam emerges. The term is relevant only in the "far field", away from any focus of the beam...

 at that point. However
due to diffraction
Diffraction
Diffraction refers to various phenomena which occur when a wave encounters an obstacle. Italian scientist Francesco Maria Grimaldi coined the word "diffraction" and was the first to record accurate observations of the phenomenon in 1665...

, that can only remain true well within the Rayleigh range. The beam of a single transverse mode (gaussian beam) laser eventually diverges at an angle which varies inversely with the beam diameter, as required by diffraction
Diffraction
Diffraction refers to various phenomena which occur when a wave encounters an obstacle. Italian scientist Francesco Maria Grimaldi coined the word "diffraction" and was the first to record accurate observations of the phenomenon in 1665...

 theory. Thus, the "pencil beam" directly generated by a common helium-neon laser
Helium-neon laser
A helium–neon laser or HeNe laser, is a type of gas laser whose gain medium consists of a mixture of helium and neon inside of a small bore capillary tube, usually excited by a DC electrical discharge.- History of HeNe laser development:...

 would spread out to a size of perhaps 500 kilometers when shone on the Moon (from the distance of the earth). On the other hand the light from a semiconductor laser typically exits the tiny crystal with a large divergence: up to 50°. However even such a divergent beam can be transformed into a similarly collimated beam by means of a lens
Lens (optics)
A lens is an optical device with perfect or approximate axial symmetry which transmits and refracts light, converging or diverging the beam. A simple lens consists of a single optical element...

 system, as is always included, for instance, in a laser pointer
Laser pointer
A laser pointer or laser pen is a small portable device with a power source and a laser emitting a very narrow coherent low-powered beam of visible light, intended to be used to highlight something of interest by illuminating it with a small bright spot of colored light...

 whose light originates from a laser diode
Laser diode
The laser diode is a laser where the active medium is a semiconductor similar to that found in a light-emitting diode. The most common type of laser diode is formed from a p-n junction and powered by injected electric current...

. That is possible due to the light being of a single spatial mode. This unique property of laser light, spatial coherence, cannot be replicated using standard light sources (except by discarding most of the light) as can be appreciated by comparing the beam from a flashlight (torch) or spotlight to that of almost any laser.

The mechanism of producing radiation in a laser relies on stimulated emission
Stimulated emission
In optics, stimulated emission is the process by which an atomic electron interacting with an electromagnetic wave of a certain frequency may drop to a lower energy level, transferring its energy to that field. A photon created in this manner has the same phase, frequency, polarization, and...

, where energy is extracted from a transition in an atom or molecule. This is a quantum phenomenon discovered by Einstein who derived the relationship between the A coefficient describing spontaneous emission and the B coefficient which applies to absorption and stimulated emission. However in the case of the free electron laser
Free electron laser
A free-electron laser, or FEL, is a laser that shares the same optical properties as conventional lasers such as emitting a beam consisting of coherent electromagnetic radiation which can reach high power, but which uses some very different operating principles to form the beam...

, atomic energy levels are not involved; it appears that the operation of this rather exotic device can be explained without reference to quantum mechanics
Quantum mechanics
Quantum mechanics, also known as quantum physics or quantum theory, is a branch of physics providing a mathematical description of much of the dual particle-like and wave-like behavior and interactions of energy and matter. It departs from classical mechanics primarily at the atomic and subatomic...

.

Continuous and pulsed modes of operation


A laser can be classified as operating in either continuous or pulsed mode, depending on whether the power output is essentially continuous over time or whether its output takes the form of pulses of light on one or another time scale. Of course even a laser whose output is normally continuous can be intentionally turned on and off at some rate in order to create pulses of light. When the modulation rate is on time scales much slower than the cavity lifetime and the time period over which energy can be stored in the lasing medium or pumping mechanism, then it is still classified as a "modulated" or "pulsed" continuous wave laser. Most laser diodes used in communication systems fall in that category.

Continuous wave operation


Some applications of lasers depend on a beam whose output power is constant over time. Such a laser is known as continuous wave
Continuous wave
A continuous wave or continuous waveform is an electromagnetic wave of constant amplitude and frequency; and in mathematical analysis, of infinite duration. Continuous wave is also the name given to an early method of radio transmission, in which a carrier wave is switched on and off...

(CW). Many types of lasers can be made to operate in continuous wave mode to satisfy such an application. Many of these lasers actually lase in several longitudinal modes at the same time, and beats between the slightly different optical frequencies of those oscillations will in fact produce amplitude variations on time scales shorter than the round-trip time (the reciprocal of the frequency spacing between modes), typically a few nanoseconds or less. In most cases these lasers are still termed "continuous wave" as their output power is steady when averaged over any longer time periods, with the very high frequency power variations having little or no impact in the intended application. (However the term is not applied to mode locked lasers, where the intention is to create very short pulses at the rate of the round-trip time).

For continuous wave operation it is required for the population inversion of the gain medium to be continually replenished by a steady pump source. In some lasing media this is impossible. In some other lasers it would require pumping the laser at a very high continuous power level which would be impractical or destroy the laser by producing excessive heat. Such lasers cannot be run in CW mode.

Pulsed operation


Pulsed operation of lasers refers to any laser not classified as continuous wave, so that the optical power appears in pulses of some duration at some repetition rate. This encompasses a wide range of technologies addressing a number of different motivations. Some lasers are pulsed simply because they cannot be run in continuous mode.

In other cases the application requires the production of pulses having as large an energy as possible. Since the pulse energy is equal to the average power divided by the repetition rate, this goal can sometimes be satisfied by lowering the rate of pulses so that more energy can be built up in between pulses. In laser ablation
Laser ablation
Laser ablation is the process of removing material from a solid surface by irradiating it with a laser beam. At low laser flux, the material is heated by the absorbed laser energy and evaporates or sublimates. At high laser flux, the material is typically converted to a plasma...

 for example, a small volume of material at the surface of a work piece can be evaporated if it is heated in a very short time, whereas supplying the energy gradually would allow for the heat to be absorbed into the bulk of the piece, never attaining a sufficiently high temperature at a particular point.

Other applications rely on the peak pulse power (rather than the energy in the pulse), especially in order to obtain nonlinear optical  effects. For a given pulse energy, this requires creating pulses of the shortest possible duration utilizing techniques such as Q-switching
Q-switching
Q-switching, sometimes known as giant pulse formation, is a technique by which a laser can be made to produce a pulsed output beam. The technique allows the production of light pulses with extremely high peak power, much higher than would be produced by the same laser if it were operating in a...

.

The optical bandwidth of a pulse cannot be narrower than the reciprocal of the pulse width. In the case of extremely short pulses, that implies lasing over a considerable bandwidth, quite contrary to the very narrow bandwidths typical of CW lasers. The lasing medium in some dye lasers and vibronic solid-state lasers produces optical gain over a wide bandwidth, making a laser possible which can thus generate pulses of light as short as a few femtoseconds (10−15 s).

Q-switching


In a Q-switched laser, the population inversion is allowed to build up by introducing loss inside the resonator which exceeds the gain of the medium; this can also be described as a reduction of the quality factor or 'Q' of the cavity. Then, after the pump energy stored in the laser medium has approached the maximum possible level, the introduced loss mechanism (often an electro- or acousto-optical element) is rapidly removed (or that occurs by itself in a passive device), allowing lasing to begin which rapidly obtains the stored energy in the gain medium. This results in a short pulse incorporating that energy, and thus a high peak power.

Mode-locking



A mode-locked laser is capable of emitting extremely short pulses on the order of tens of picosecond
Picosecond
A picosecond is 10−12 of a second. That is one trillionth, or one millionth of one millionth of a second, or 0.000 000 000 001 seconds. A picosecond is to one second as one second is to 31,700 years....

s down to less than 10 femtoseconds. These pulses will repeat at the round trip time, that is, the time that it takes light to complete one round trip between the mirrors comprising the resonator. Due to the Fourier limit (also known as energy-time uncertainty
Uncertainty principle
In quantum mechanics, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle states a fundamental limit on the accuracy with which certain pairs of physical properties of a particle, such as position and momentum, can be simultaneously known...

), a pulse of such short temporal length has a spectrum spread over a considerable bandwidth. Thus such a gain medium must have a gain bandwidth sufficiently broad to amplify those frequencies. An example of a suitable material is titanium
Titanium
Titanium is a chemical element with the symbol Ti and atomic number 22. It has a low density and is a strong, lustrous, corrosion-resistant transition metal with a silver color....

-doped, artificially grown sapphire
Sapphire
Sapphire is a gemstone variety of the mineral corundum, an aluminium oxide , when it is a color other than red or dark pink; in which case the gem would instead be called a ruby, considered to be a different gemstone. Trace amounts of other elements such as iron, titanium, or chromium can give...

 (Ti:sapphire
Ti-sapphire laser
Ti:sapphire lasers are tunable lasers which emit red and near-infrared light in the range from 650 to 1100 nanometers. These lasers are mainly used in scientific research because of their tunability and their ability to generate ultrashort pulses...

) which has a very wide gain bandwidth and can thus produce pulses of only a few femtoseconds duration.

Such mode-locked lasers are a most versatile tool for researching processes occurring on extremely short time scales (known as femtosecond physics, femtosecond chemistry and ultrafast science), for maximizing the effect of nonlinearity
Nonlinear optics
Nonlinear optics is the branch of optics that describes the behavior of light in nonlinear media, that is, media in which the dielectric polarization P responds nonlinearly to the electric field E of the light...

 in optical materials (e.g. in second-harmonic generation, parametric down-conversion, optical parametric oscillator
Optical parametric oscillator
An optical parametric oscillator is a parametric oscillator which oscillates at optical frequencies. It converts an input laser wave into two output waves of lower frequency by means of second order nonlinear optical interaction. The sum of the output waves frequencies is equal to the input wave...

s and the like) due to the large peak power, and in ablation applications. Again, because of the extremely short pulse duration, such a laser will produce pulses which achieve an extremely high peak power.

Pulsed pumping


Another method of achieving pulsed laser operation is to pump the laser material with a source that is itself pulsed, either through electronic charging in the case of flash lamps, or another laser which is already pulsed. Pulsed pumping was historically used with dye lasers where the inverted population lifetime of a dye molecule was so short that a high energy, fast pump was needed. The way to overcome this problem was to charge up large capacitors which are then switched to discharge through flashlamps, producing an intense flash. Pulsed pumping is also required for three-level lasers in which the lower energy level rapidly becomes highly populated preventing further lasing until those atoms relax to the ground state. These lasers, such as the excimer laser and the copper vapor laser, can never be operated in CW mode.

Foundations


In 1917, Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of general relativity, effecting a revolution in physics. For this achievement, Einstein is often regarded as the father of modern physics and one of the most prolific intellects in human history...

 established the theoretic foundations for the laser and the maser in the paper Zur Quantentheorie der Strahlung (On the Quantum Theory of Radiation); via a re-derivation of Max Planck
Max Planck
Max Karl Ernst Ludwig Planck, ForMemRS, was a German physicist who actualized the quantum physics, initiating a revolution in natural science and philosophy. He is regarded as the founder of the quantum theory, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1918.-Life and career:Planck came...

’s law of radiation, conceptually based upon probability coefficients (Einstein coefficients) for the absorption, spontaneous emission, and stimulated emission of electromagnetic radiation; in 1928, Rudolf W. Ladenburg confirmed the existences of the phenomena of stimulated emission and negative absorption; in 1939, Valentin A. Fabrikant predicted the use of stimulated emission to amplify “short” waves; in 1947, Willis E. Lamb and R. C. Retherford found apparent stimulated emission in hydrogen spectra and effected the first demonstration of stimulated emission; in 1950, Alfred Kastler
Alfred Kastler
Alfred Kastler was a French physicist, and Nobel Prize laureate.Kastler was born in Guebwiller and later attended the Lycée Bartholdi in Colmar, Alsace, and École Normale Supérieure in Paris in 1921...

 (Nobel Prize for Physics 1966) proposed the method of optical pumping
Optical pumping
Optical pumping is a process in which light is used to raise electrons from a lower energy level in an atom or molecule to a higher one. It is commonly used in laser construction, to pump the active laser medium so as to achieve population inversion...

, experimentally confirmed, two years later, by Brossel, Kastler, and Winter.

Maser



In 1953, Charles Hard Townes
Charles Hard Townes
Charles Hard Townes is an American Nobel Prize-winning physicist and educator. Townes is known for his work on the theory and application of the maser, on which he got the fundamental patent, and other work in quantum electronics connected with both maser and laser devices. He shared the Nobel...

 and graduate students James P. Gordon and Herbert J. Zeiger produced the first microwave amplifier, a device operating on similar principles to the laser, but amplifying microwave
Microwave
Microwaves, a subset of radio waves, have wavelengths ranging from as long as one meter to as short as one millimeter, or equivalently, with frequencies between 300 MHz and 300 GHz. This broad definition includes both UHF and EHF , and various sources use different boundaries...

 radiation rather than infrared or visible radiation. Townes's maser was incapable of continuous output. Meanwhile, in the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

, Nikolay Basov
Nikolay Basov
Nikolay Gennadiyevich Basov was a Soviet physicist and educator. For his fundamental work in the field of quantum electronics that led to the development of laser and maser, Basov shared the 1964 Nobel Prize in Physics with Alexander Prokhorov and Charles Hard Townes.-Early life:Basov was born in...

 and Aleksandr Prokhorov
Aleksandr Mikhailovich Prokhorov
Alexander Mikhaylovich Prokhorov was a Russian physicist known for his pioneering research on lasers and masers for which he shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1964 with Charles Hard Townes and Nikolay Basov....

 were independently working on the quantum oscillator
Oscillation
Oscillation is the repetitive variation, typically in time, of some measure about a central value or between two or more different states. Familiar examples include a swinging pendulum and AC power. The term vibration is sometimes used more narrowly to mean a mechanical oscillation but sometimes...

 and solved the problem of continuous-output systems by using more than two energy levels. These gain media could release stimulated emission
Stimulated emission
In optics, stimulated emission is the process by which an atomic electron interacting with an electromagnetic wave of a certain frequency may drop to a lower energy level, transferring its energy to that field. A photon created in this manner has the same phase, frequency, polarization, and...

s between an excited state and a lower excited state, not the ground state, facilitating the maintenance of a population inversion
Population inversion
In physics, specifically statistical mechanics, a population inversion occurs when a system exists in state with more members in an excited state than in lower energy states...

. In 1955, Prokhorov and Basov suggested optical pumping of a multi-level system as a method for obtaining the population inversion, later a main method of laser pumping.

Townes reports that several eminent physicists — among them Niels Bohr
Niels Bohr
Niels Henrik David Bohr was a Danish physicist who made foundational contributions to understanding atomic structure and quantum mechanics, for which he received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1922. Bohr mentored and collaborated with many of the top physicists of the century at his institute in...

, John von Neumann
John von Neumann
John von Neumann was a Hungarian-American mathematician and polymath who made major contributions to a vast number of fields, including set theory, functional analysis, quantum mechanics, ergodic theory, geometry, fluid dynamics, economics and game theory, computer science, numerical analysis,...

, Isidor Rabi, Polykarp Kusch
Polykarp Kusch
Polykarp Kusch was a German-American physicist. In 1955 he was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics with Willis Eugene Lamb for his accurate determination that the magnetic moment of the electron was greater than its theoretical value, thus leading to reconsideration of—and...

, and Llewellyn Thomas
Llewellyn Thomas
Llewellyn Hilleth Thomas was a British physicist and applied mathematician. He is best known for his contributions to atomic physics, in particular:...

 — argued the maser violated Heisenberg's uncertainty principle
Uncertainty principle
In quantum mechanics, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle states a fundamental limit on the accuracy with which certain pairs of physical properties of a particle, such as position and momentum, can be simultaneously known...

 and hence could not work.http://books.google.com/books?id=VrbD41GGeJYC&pg=PA69&lpg=PA69&dq=%22niels+bohr%22+rabi+kusch+von+neumann+laser&source=web&ots=0_A7OuramT&sig=4R4yTmk6SmJTN8mZaiOMzgg-LO4 In 1964 Charles H. Townes, Nikolay Basov, and Aleksandr Prokhorov shared the Nobel Prize in Physics
Nobel Prize in Physics
The Nobel Prize in Physics is awarded once a year by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. It is one of the five Nobel Prizes established by the will of Alfred Nobel in 1895 and awarded since 1901; the others are the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Nobel Prize in Literature, Nobel Peace Prize, and...

, “for fundamental work in the field of quantum electronics, which has led to the construction of oscillators and amplifiers based on the maser–laser principle”.

Laser


In 1957, Charles Hard Townes
Charles Hard Townes
Charles Hard Townes is an American Nobel Prize-winning physicist and educator. Townes is known for his work on the theory and application of the maser, on which he got the fundamental patent, and other work in quantum electronics connected with both maser and laser devices. He shared the Nobel...

 and Arthur Leonard Schawlow
Arthur Leonard Schawlow
Arthur Leonard Schawlow was an American physicist. He is best remembered for his work on lasers, for which he shared the 1981 Nobel Prize in Physics with Nicolaas Bloembergen and Kai Siegbahn.-Biography:...

, then at Bell Labs
Bell Labs
Bell Laboratories is the research and development subsidiary of the French-owned Alcatel-Lucent and previously of the American Telephone & Telegraph Company , half-owned through its Western Electric manufacturing subsidiary.Bell Laboratories operates its...

, began a serious study of the infrared laser. As ideas developed, they abandoned infrared
Infrared
Infrared light is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength longer than that of visible light, measured from the nominal edge of visible red light at 0.74 micrometres , and extending conventionally to 300 µm...

 radiation to instead concentrate upon visible light. The concept originally was called an "optical maser". In 1958, Bell Labs filed a patent
Patent
A patent is a form of intellectual property. It consists of a set of exclusive rights granted by a sovereign state to an inventor or their assignee for a limited period of time in exchange for the public disclosure of an invention....

 application for their proposed optical maser; and Schawlow and Townes submitted a manuscript of their theoretical calculations to the Physical Review
Physical Review
Physical Review is an American scientific journal founded in 1893 by Edward Nichols. It publishes original research and scientific and literature reviews on all aspects of physics. It is published by the American Physical Society. The journal is in its third series, and is split in several...

, published that year in Volume 112, Issue No. 6.

Simultaneously, at Columbia University
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

, graduate student Gordon Gould
Gordon Gould
Gordon Gould was an American physicist who is widely, but not universally, credited with the invention of the laser. Gould is best known for his thirty-year fight with the United States Patent and Trademark Office to obtain patents for the laser and related technologies...

 was working on a doctoral thesis about the energy levels of excited thallium
Thallium
Thallium is a chemical element with the symbol Tl and atomic number 81. This soft gray poor metal resembles tin but discolors when exposed to air. The two chemists William Crookes and Claude-Auguste Lamy discovered thallium independently in 1861 by the newly developed method of flame spectroscopy...

. When Gould and Townes met, they spoke of radiation emission, as a general subject; afterwards, in November 1957, Gould noted his ideas for a “laser”, including using an open resonator
Resonator
A resonator is a device or system that exhibits resonance or resonant behavior, that is, it naturally oscillates at some frequencies, called its resonant frequencies, with greater amplitude than at others. The oscillations in a resonator can be either electromagnetic or mechanical...

 (later an essential laser-device component). Moreover, in 1958, Prokhorov independently proposed using an open resonator, the first published appearance (the USSR) of this idea. Elsewhere, in the U.S., Schawlow and Townes had agreed to an open-resonator laser design — apparently unaware of Prokhorov’s publications and Gould’s unpublished laser work.

At a conference in 1959, Gordon Gould published the term LASER in the paper The LASER, Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. Gould’s linguistic intention was using the “-aser” word particle as a suffix — to accurately denote the spectrum of the light emitted by the LASER device; thus x-rays: xaser, ultraviolet: uvaser, et cetera; none established itself as a discrete term, although “raser” was briefly popular for denoting radio-frequency-emitting devices.

Gould’s notes included possible applications for a laser, such as spectrometry
Spectroscopy
Spectroscopy is the study of the interaction between matter and radiated energy. Historically, spectroscopy originated through the study of visible light dispersed according to its wavelength, e.g., by a prism. Later the concept was expanded greatly to comprise any interaction with radiative...

, interferometry
Interferometry
Interferometry refers to a family of techniques in which electromagnetic waves are superimposed in order to extract information about the waves. An instrument used to interfere waves is called an interferometer. Interferometry is an important investigative technique in the fields of astronomy,...

, radar
Radar
Radar is an object-detection system which uses radio waves to determine the range, altitude, direction, or speed of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor vehicles, weather formations, and terrain. The radar dish or antenna transmits pulses of radio...

, and nuclear fusion
Nuclear fusion
Nuclear fusion is the process by which two or more atomic nuclei join together, or "fuse", to form a single heavier nucleus. This is usually accompanied by the release or absorption of large quantities of energy...

. He continued developing the idea, and filed a patent application
Patent application
A patent application is a request pending at a patent office for the grant of a patent for the invention described and claimed by that application. An application consists of a description of the invention , together with official forms and correspondence relating to the application...

 in April 1959. The U.S. Patent Office
United States Patent and Trademark Office
The United States Patent and Trademark Office is an agency in the United States Department of Commerce that issues patents to inventors and businesses for their inventions, and trademark registration for product and intellectual property identification.The USPTO is based in Alexandria, Virginia,...

 denied his application, and awarded a patent to Bell Labs
Bell Labs
Bell Laboratories is the research and development subsidiary of the French-owned Alcatel-Lucent and previously of the American Telephone & Telegraph Company , half-owned through its Western Electric manufacturing subsidiary.Bell Laboratories operates its...

, in 1960. That provoked a twenty-eight-year lawsuit
Lawsuit
A lawsuit or "suit in law" is a civil action brought in a court of law in which a plaintiff, a party who claims to have incurred loss as a result of a defendant's actions, demands a legal or equitable remedy. The defendant is required to respond to the plaintiff's complaint...

, featuring scientific prestige and money as the stakes. Gould won his first minor patent in 1977, yet it was not until 1987 that he won the first significant patent lawsuit victory, when a Federal judge ordered the U.S. Patent Office to issue patents to Gould for the optically pumped and the gas discharge laser devices.

On May 16, 1960, Theodore H. Maiman operated the first functioning laser, at Hughes Research Laboratories
Hughes Research Laboratories
HRL Laboratories , was the research arm of the Hughes Aircraft Company. Its dedicated research center was established in 1960 in Malibu...

, Malibu, California, ahead of several research teams, including those of Townes, at Columbia University
Columbia University
Columbia University in the City of New York is a private, Ivy League university in Manhattan, New York City. Columbia is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York, the fifth oldest in the United States, and one of the country's nine Colonial Colleges founded before the...

, Arthur Schawlow, at Bell Labs
Bell Labs
Bell Laboratories is the research and development subsidiary of the French-owned Alcatel-Lucent and previously of the American Telephone & Telegraph Company , half-owned through its Western Electric manufacturing subsidiary.Bell Laboratories operates its...

, and Gould, at the TRG (Technical Research Group) company. Maiman’s functional laser used a solid-state flashlamp-pumped synthetic ruby
Ruby
A ruby is a pink to blood-red colored gemstone, a variety of the mineral corundum . The red color is caused mainly by the presence of the element chromium. Its name comes from ruber, Latin for red. Other varieties of gem-quality corundum are called sapphires...

 crystal
Crystal
A crystal or crystalline solid is a solid material whose constituent atoms, molecules, or ions are arranged in an orderly repeating pattern extending in all three spatial dimensions. The scientific study of crystals and crystal formation is known as crystallography...

 to produce red laser light, at 694 nanometres wavelength; however, the device only was capable of pulsed operation, because of its three-level pumping design scheme. Later in 1960, the Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

ian physicist Ali Javan
Ali Javan
Ali Mortimer Javan , born December 26, 1926 in Tehran, Iran is an Iranian American inventor and physicist at MIT. He co-invented the gas laser in 1960, with William R. Bennett...

, and William R. Bennett
William R. Bennett, Jr.
William Ralph Bennett Jr. was an American physicist known for his pioneering work on gas lasers. He spent most of his career on the faculty of Yale University.-Career:...

, and Donald Herriott
Donald R. Herriott
Donald R. Herriott was president of the Optical Society of America in 1984.He received the 1981 IEEE Cledo Brunetti Award.-External links:* Journal of the Optical Society of America-See also:...

, constructed the first gas laser
Gas laser
A gas laser is a laser in which an electric current is discharged through a gas to produce coherent light. The gas laser was the first continuous-light laser and the first laser to operate "on the principle of converting electrical energy to a laser light output...

, using helium
Helium
Helium is the chemical element with atomic number 2 and an atomic weight of 4.002602, which is represented by the symbol He. It is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, non-toxic, inert, monatomic gas that heads the noble gas group in the periodic table...

 and neon
Neon
Neon is the chemical element that has the symbol Ne and an atomic number of 10. Although a very common element in the universe, it is rare on Earth. A colorless, inert noble gas under standard conditions, neon gives a distinct reddish-orange glow when used in either low-voltage neon glow lamps or...

 that was capable of continuous operation in the infrared (U.S. Patent 3,149,290); later, Javan received the Albert Einstein Award
Albert Einstein Award
The Albert Einstein Award was an award in theoretical physics that was established to recognize high achievement in the natural sciences. It was endowed by the Lewis and Rosa Strauss Memorial Fund in honor of Albert Einstein's 70th birthday...

 in 1993. Basov and Javan proposed the semiconductor laser diode
Laser diode
The laser diode is a laser where the active medium is a semiconductor similar to that found in a light-emitting diode. The most common type of laser diode is formed from a p-n junction and powered by injected electric current...

 concept. In 1962, Robert N. Hall
Robert N. Hall
Robert N. Hall is an American engineer and applied physicist. He demonstrated the first semiconductor laser, and invented a type of magnetron commonly used in microwave ovens. He also contributed to the development of rectifiers for power transmission.-Biography:Hall was born in New Haven,...

 demonstrated the first laser diode device, made of gallium arsenide and emitted at 850 nm the near-infrared
Infrared
Infrared light is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength longer than that of visible light, measured from the nominal edge of visible red light at 0.74 micrometres , and extending conventionally to 300 µm...

 band of the spectrum. Later, in 1962, Nick Holonyak, Jr.
Nick Holonyak
Nick Holonyak, Jr. invented the first practically useful visible LED in 1962 while working as a consulting scientist at a General Electric Company laboratory in Syracuse, New York and has been called "the father of the light-emitting diode"...

 demonstrated the first semiconductor laser with a visible emission. This first semiconductor laser could only be used in pulsed-beam operation, and when cooled to liquid nitrogen
Liquid nitrogen
Liquid nitrogen is nitrogen in a liquid state at a very low temperature. It is produced industrially by fractional distillation of liquid air. Liquid nitrogen is a colourless clear liquid with density of 0.807 g/mL at its boiling point and a dielectric constant of 1.4...

 temperatures (77 K). In 1970, Zhores Alferov
Zhores Ivanovich Alferov
Zhores Ivanovich Alferov is a Soviet and Russian physicist and academic who contributed significantly to the creation of modern heterostructure physics and electronics. He is an inventor of the heterotransistor and the winner of 2000 Nobel Prize in Physics. He is also a Russian politician and has...

, in the USSR, and Izuo Hayashi and Morton Panish of Bell Telephone Laboratories also independently developed room-temperature, continual-operation diode lasers, using the heterojunction
Heterojunction
A heterojunction is the interface that occurs between two layers or regions of dissimilar crystalline semiconductors. These semiconducting materials have unequal band gaps as opposed to a homojunction...

 structure.

Recent innovations



Since the early period of laser history, laser research has produced a variety of improved and specialized laser types, optimized for different performance goals, including:
  • new wavelength bands
  • maximum average output power
  • maximum peak pulse energy
  • maximum peak pulse power
  • minimum output pulse duration
  • maximum power efficiency
  • minimum cost

and this research continues to this day.

Lasing without maintaining the medium excited into a population inversion was discovered in 1992 in sodium
Sodium
Sodium is a chemical element with the symbol Na and atomic number 11. It is a soft, silvery-white, highly reactive metal and is a member of the alkali metals; its only stable isotope is 23Na. It is an abundant element that exists in numerous minerals, most commonly as sodium chloride...

 gas and again in 1995 in rubidium
Rubidium
Rubidium is a chemical element with the symbol Rb and atomic number 37. Rubidium is a soft, silvery-white metallic element of the alkali metal group. Its atomic mass is 85.4678. Elemental rubidium is highly reactive, with properties similar to those of other elements in group 1, such as very rapid...

 gas by various international teams. This was accomplished by using an external maser to induce "optical transparency" in the medium by introducing and destructively interfering the ground electron transitions between two paths, so that the likelihood for the ground electrons to absorb any energy has been cancelled.


Types and operating principles

For a more complete list of laser types see this list of laser types.

Gas lasers



Following the invention of the HeNe gas laser, many other gas discharges have been found to amplify light coherently.
Gas lasers using many different gas
Gas
Gas is one of the three classical states of matter . Near absolute zero, a substance exists as a solid. As heat is added to this substance it melts into a liquid at its melting point , boils into a gas at its boiling point, and if heated high enough would enter a plasma state in which the electrons...

es have been built and used for many purposes. The helium-neon laser
Helium-neon laser
A helium–neon laser or HeNe laser, is a type of gas laser whose gain medium consists of a mixture of helium and neon inside of a small bore capillary tube, usually excited by a DC electrical discharge.- History of HeNe laser development:...

 (HeNe) is able to operate at a number of different wavelengths, however the vast majority are engineered to lase at 633 nm; these relatively low cost but highly coherent lasers are extremely common in optical research and educational laboratories. Commercial carbon dioxide (CO2) lasers
Carbon dioxide laser
The carbon dioxide laser was one of the earliest gas lasers to be developed , and is still one of the most useful. Carbon dioxide lasers are the highest-power continuous wave lasers that are currently available...

 can emit many hundreds of watts in a single spatial mode which can be concentrated into a tiny spot. This emission is in the thermal infrared at 10.6 µm; such lasers are regularly used in industry for cutting and welding. The efficiency of a CO2 laser is unusually high: over 10%. Argon-ion
Ion laser
An ion laser is a gas laser which uses an ionized gas as its lasing medium.Like other gas lasers, ion lasers feature a sealed cavity containing the laser medium and mirrors forming a Fabry–Pérot resonator. Unlike HeNe lasers, the energy level transitions that contribute to laser action come from ions...

 lasers can operate at a number of lasing transitions between 351 and 528.7 nm. Depending on the optical design one or more of these transitions can be lasing simultaneously; the most commonly used lines are 458 nm, 488 nm and 514.5 nm. A nitrogen transverse electrical discharge in gas at atmospheric pressure
TEA laser
A TEA laser is a transversely-excited atmospheric-pressure laser.-Invention:The CO2 TEA laser was invented in the late 1960s by Dr Jacques Beaulieu working at the Defence Research Establishment, Valcartier, in Quebec, Canada...

  (TEA) laser is an inexpensive gas laser, often home-built by hobbyists, which produces rather incoherent UV light at 337.1 nm. Metal ion lasers are gas lasers that generate deep ultraviolet wavelengths. Helium
Helium
Helium is the chemical element with atomic number 2 and an atomic weight of 4.002602, which is represented by the symbol He. It is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, non-toxic, inert, monatomic gas that heads the noble gas group in the periodic table...

-silver
Silver
Silver is a metallic chemical element with the chemical symbol Ag and atomic number 47. A soft, white, lustrous transition metal, it has the highest electrical conductivity of any element and the highest thermal conductivity of any metal...

 (HeAg) 224 nm and neon
Neon
Neon is the chemical element that has the symbol Ne and an atomic number of 10. Although a very common element in the universe, it is rare on Earth. A colorless, inert noble gas under standard conditions, neon gives a distinct reddish-orange glow when used in either low-voltage neon glow lamps or...

-copper
Copper
Copper is a chemical element with the symbol Cu and atomic number 29. It is a ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. Pure copper is soft and malleable; an exposed surface has a reddish-orange tarnish...

 (NeCu) 248 nm are two examples. Like all low-pressure gas lasers, the gain media of these lasers have quite narrow oscillation linewidths, less than 3 GHz
GHZ
GHZ or GHz may refer to:# Gigahertz .# Greenberger-Horne-Zeilinger state — a quantum entanglement of three particles.# Galactic Habitable Zone — the region of a galaxy that is favorable to the formation of life....

 (0.5 picometers), making them candidates for use in fluorescence
Fluorescence
Fluorescence is the emission of light by a substance that has absorbed light or other electromagnetic radiation of a different wavelength. It is a form of luminescence. In most cases, emitted light has a longer wavelength, and therefore lower energy, than the absorbed radiation...

 suppressed Raman spectroscopy
Raman spectroscopy
Raman spectroscopy is a spectroscopic technique used to study vibrational, rotational, and other low-frequency modes in a system.It relies on inelastic scattering, or Raman scattering, of monochromatic light, usually from a laser in the visible, near infrared, or near ultraviolet range...

.

Chemical lasers


Chemical laser
Chemical laser
A chemical laser is a laser that obtains its energy from a chemical reaction. Chemical lasers can achieve continuous wave output with power reaching to megawatt levels...

s are powered by a chemical reaction permitting a large amount of energy to be released quickly. Such very high power lasers are especially of interest to the military, however continuous wave chemical lasers at very high power levels, fed by streams of gasses, have been developed and have some industrial applications. As examples, in the Hydrogen fluoride laser
Hydrogen fluoride laser
The hydrogen fluoride laser is an infrared chemical laser. It is capable of delivering continuous output power in the megawatt range.Hydrogen fluoride lasers operate at the wavelength of 2.7-2.9 µm. This wavelength is absorbed by the atmosphere, effectively attenuating the beam and reducing its...

 (2700-2900 nm) and the Deuterium fluoride laser (3800 nm) the reaction is the combination of hydrogen or deuterium gas with combustion products of ethylene
Ethylene
Ethylene is a gaseous organic compound with the formula . It is the simplest alkene . Because it contains a carbon-carbon double bond, ethylene is classified as an unsaturated hydrocarbon. Ethylene is widely used in industry and is also a plant hormone...

 in nitrogen trifluoride
Nitrogen trifluoride
Nitrogen trifluoride is the inorganic compound with the formula NF3. This nitrogen-fluorine compound is a colorless, toxic, odourless, nonflammable gas. It finds increasing use as an etchant in microelectronics.-Applications:...

.

Excimer lasers


Excimer laser
Excimer laser
An excimer laser is a form of ultraviolet laser which is commonly used in the production of microelectronic devices , eye surgery, and micromachining....

s are a special sort of gas laser powered by an electric discharge in which the lasing medium is an excimer
Excimer
An excimer is a short-lived dimeric or heterodimeric molecule formed from two species, at least one of which is in an electronic excited state. Excimers are often diatomic and are composed of two atoms or molecules that would not bond if both were in the ground state. The lifetime of an excimer is...

, or more precisely an exciplex in existing designs. These are molecules which can only exist with one atom in an excited electronic state
Excited state
Excitation is an elevation in energy level above an arbitrary baseline energy state. In physics there is a specific technical definition for energy level which is often associated with an atom being excited to an excited state....

. Once the molecule transfers its excitation energy to a photon, therefore, its atoms are no longer bound to each other and the molecule disintegrates. This drastically reduces the population of the lower energy state thus greatly facilitating a population inversion. Excimers currently used are all noble gas compounds; noble gasses are chemically inert and can only form compounds while in an excited state. Excimer lasers typically operate at ultraviolet
Ultraviolet
Ultraviolet light is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength shorter than that of visible light, but longer than X-rays, in the range 10 nm to 400 nm, and energies from 3 eV to 124 eV...

 wavelengths with major applicatons including semiconductor photolithography
Photolithography
Photolithography is a process used in microfabrication to selectively remove parts of a thin film or the bulk of a substrate. It uses light to transfer a geometric pattern from a photomask to a light-sensitive chemical "photoresist", or simply "resist," on the substrate...

 and LASIK
LASIK
LASIK or Lasik , commonly referred to simply as laser eye surgery, is a type of refractive surgery for correcting myopia, hyperopia, and astigmatism...

 eye surgery. Commonly used excimer molecules include ArF (emission at 193 nm), KrCl (222 nm), KrF (248 nm), XeCl (308 nm), and XeF (351 nm).
The molecular fluorine
Fluorine
Fluorine is the chemical element with atomic number 9, represented by the symbol F. It is the lightest element of the halogen column of the periodic table and has a single stable isotope, fluorine-19. At standard pressure and temperature, fluorine is a pale yellow gas composed of diatomic...

 laser, emitting at 157 nm in the vacuum ultraviolet is sometimes referred to as an excimer laser, however this appears to be a misnomer inasmuch as F2 is a stable compound.

Solid-state lasers



Solid-state laser
Solid-state laser
A solid-state laser is a laser that uses a gain medium that is a solid, rather than a liquid such as in dye lasers or a gas as in gas lasers. Semiconductor-based lasers are also in the solid state, but are generally considered as a separate class from solid-state lasers .-Solid-state...

s use a crystalline or glass rod which is "doped" with ions that provide the required energy states. For example, the first working laser was a ruby laser
Ruby laser
A ruby laser is a solid-state laser that uses a synthetic ruby crystal as its gain medium. The first working laser was a ruby laser made by Theodore H. "Ted" Maiman at Hughes Research Laboratories on May 16, 1960....

, made from ruby
Ruby
A ruby is a pink to blood-red colored gemstone, a variety of the mineral corundum . The red color is caused mainly by the presence of the element chromium. Its name comes from ruber, Latin for red. Other varieties of gem-quality corundum are called sapphires...

 (chromium
Chromium
Chromium is a chemical element which has the symbol Cr and atomic number 24. It is the first element in Group 6. It is a steely-gray, lustrous, hard metal that takes a high polish and has a high melting point. It is also odorless, tasteless, and malleable...

-doped corundum
Corundum
Corundum is a crystalline form of aluminium oxide with traces of iron, titanium and chromium. It is a rock-forming mineral. It is one of the naturally clear transparent materials, but can have different colors when impurities are present. Transparent specimens are used as gems, called ruby if red...

). The population inversion
Population inversion
In physics, specifically statistical mechanics, a population inversion occurs when a system exists in state with more members in an excited state than in lower energy states...

 is actually maintained in the "dopant", such as chromium
Chromium
Chromium is a chemical element which has the symbol Cr and atomic number 24. It is the first element in Group 6. It is a steely-gray, lustrous, hard metal that takes a high polish and has a high melting point. It is also odorless, tasteless, and malleable...

 or neodymium
Neodymium
Neodymium is a chemical element with the symbol Nd and atomic number 60. It is a soft silvery metal that tarnishes in air. Neodymium was discovered in 1885 by the Austrian chemist Carl Auer von Welsbach. It is present in significant quantities in the ore minerals monazite and bastnäsite...

.
These materials are pumped optically using a shorter wavelength than the lasing wavelength, often from a flashtube or from another laser.

It should be noted that "solid-state" in this sense refers to a crystal or glass, but this usage is distinct from the designation of "solid-state electronics" in referring to semiconductors. Semiconductor lasers (laser diodes) are pumped electrically and are thus not referred to as solid-state lasers.
The class of solid-state lasers would, however, properly include fiber laser
Fiber laser
A fiber laser or fibre laser is a laser in which the active gain medium is an optical fiber doped with rare-earth elements such as erbium, ytterbium, neodymium, dysprosium, praseodymium, and thulium. They are related to doped fiber amplifiers, which provide light amplification without lasing...

s in which dopants in the glass lase under optical pumping. But in practice these are simply referred to as "fiber laser
Fiber laser
A fiber laser or fibre laser is a laser in which the active gain medium is an optical fiber doped with rare-earth elements such as erbium, ytterbium, neodymium, dysprosium, praseodymium, and thulium. They are related to doped fiber amplifiers, which provide light amplification without lasing...

s" with "solid-state" reserved for lasers using a solid rod of such a material.
Neodymium
Neodymium
Neodymium is a chemical element with the symbol Nd and atomic number 60. It is a soft silvery metal that tarnishes in air. Neodymium was discovered in 1885 by the Austrian chemist Carl Auer von Welsbach. It is present in significant quantities in the ore minerals monazite and bastnäsite...

 is a common "dopant" in various solid-state laser crystals, including yttrium orthovanadate
Yttrium orthovanadate
Yttrium orthovanadate is a transparent crystal. Undoped YVO4 is also used to make efficient high-power polarizing prisms similar to Glan–Taylor prisms.There are two principal applications for doped Yttrium orthovanadate:...

 (Nd:YVO4), yttrium lithium fluoride
Yttrium lithium fluoride
Yttrium lithium fluoride is a birefringent crystal, typically doped with neodymium and used as again medium in solid-state lasers....

 (Nd:YLF) and yttrium aluminium garnet
Yttrium aluminium garnet
Yttrium aluminium garnet is a synthetic crystalline material of the garnet group. It is also one of three phases of the yttria-aluminium composite, the other two being yttrium aluminium monoclinic and yttrium aluminium perovskite . YAG is commonly used as a host material in various solid-state...

 (Nd:YAG). All these lasers can produce high powers in the infrared
Infrared
Infrared light is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength longer than that of visible light, measured from the nominal edge of visible red light at 0.74 micrometres , and extending conventionally to 300 µm...

 spectrum at 1064 nm. They are used for cutting, welding and marking of metals and other materials, and also in spectroscopy
Spectroscopy
Spectroscopy is the study of the interaction between matter and radiated energy. Historically, spectroscopy originated through the study of visible light dispersed according to its wavelength, e.g., by a prism. Later the concept was expanded greatly to comprise any interaction with radiative...

 and for pumping dye laser
Dye laser
A dye laser is a laser which uses an organic dye as the lasing medium, usually as a liquid solution. Compared to gases and most solid state lasing media, a dye can usually be used for a much wider range of wavelengths. The wide bandwidth makes them particularly suitable for tunable lasers and...

s.

These lasers are also commonly frequency doubled
Nonlinear optics
Nonlinear optics is the branch of optics that describes the behavior of light in nonlinear media, that is, media in which the dielectric polarization P responds nonlinearly to the electric field E of the light...

, tripled
Nonlinear optics
Nonlinear optics is the branch of optics that describes the behavior of light in nonlinear media, that is, media in which the dielectric polarization P responds nonlinearly to the electric field E of the light...

 or quadrupled
Nonlinear optics
Nonlinear optics is the branch of optics that describes the behavior of light in nonlinear media, that is, media in which the dielectric polarization P responds nonlinearly to the electric field E of the light...

, in so-called "diode pumped solid state" or DPSS lasers. Under second, third, or fourth harmonic generation these produce 532 nm (green
Green
Green is a color, the perception of which is evoked by light having a spectrum dominated by energy with a wavelength of roughly 520–570 nanometres. In the subtractive color system, it is not a primary color, but is created out of a mixture of yellow and blue, or yellow and cyan; it is considered...

, visible), 355 nm and 266 nm (UV
Ultraviolet
Ultraviolet light is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength shorter than that of visible light, but longer than X-rays, in the range 10 nm to 400 nm, and energies from 3 eV to 124 eV...

) beams. This is the technology behind the bright laser pointer
Laser pointer
A laser pointer or laser pen is a small portable device with a power source and a laser emitting a very narrow coherent low-powered beam of visible light, intended to be used to highlight something of interest by illuminating it with a small bright spot of colored light...

s particularly at green (532 nm) and other short visible wavelengths.

Ytterbium
Ytterbium
Ytterbium is a chemical element with the symbol Yb and atomic number 70. A soft silvery metallic element, ytterbium is a rare earth element of the lanthanide series and is found in the minerals gadolinite, monazite, and xenotime. The element is sometimes associated with yttrium or other related...

, holmium
Holmium
Holmium is a chemical element with the symbol Ho and atomic number 67. Part of the lanthanide series, holmium is a rare earth element. Its oxide was first isolated from rare earth ores in 1878 and the element was named after the city of Stockholm....

, thulium
Thulium
Thulium is a chemical element that has the symbol Tm and atomic number 69. Thulium is the second least abundant of the lanthanides . It is an easily workable metal with a bright silvery-gray luster...

, and erbium
Erbium
Erbium is a chemical element in the lanthanide series, with the symbol Er and atomic number 68. A silvery-white solid metal when artificially isolated, natural erbium is always found in chemical combination with other elements on Earth...

 are other common "dopants" in solid-state lasers. Ytterbium is used in crystals such as Yb:YAG, Yb:KGW, Yb:KYW, Yb:SYS, Yb:BOYS, Yb:CaF2, typically operating around 1020-1050 nm. They are potentially very efficient and high powered due to a small quantum defect. Extremely high powers in ultrashort pulses can be achieved with Yb:YAG. Holmium
Holmium
Holmium is a chemical element with the symbol Ho and atomic number 67. Part of the lanthanide series, holmium is a rare earth element. Its oxide was first isolated from rare earth ores in 1878 and the element was named after the city of Stockholm....

-doped YAG crystals emit at 2097 nm and form an efficient laser operating at infrared
Infrared
Infrared light is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength longer than that of visible light, measured from the nominal edge of visible red light at 0.74 micrometres , and extending conventionally to 300 µm...

 wavelengths strongly absorbed by water-bearing tissues. The Ho-YAG is usually operated in a pulsed mode, and passed through optical fiber surgical devices to resurface joints, remove rot from teeth, vaporize cancers, and pulverize kidney and gall stones.

Titanium
Titanium
Titanium is a chemical element with the symbol Ti and atomic number 22. It has a low density and is a strong, lustrous, corrosion-resistant transition metal with a silver color....

-doped sapphire
Sapphire
Sapphire is a gemstone variety of the mineral corundum, an aluminium oxide , when it is a color other than red or dark pink; in which case the gem would instead be called a ruby, considered to be a different gemstone. Trace amounts of other elements such as iron, titanium, or chromium can give...

 (Ti:sapphire
Ti-sapphire laser
Ti:sapphire lasers are tunable lasers which emit red and near-infrared light in the range from 650 to 1100 nanometers. These lasers are mainly used in scientific research because of their tunability and their ability to generate ultrashort pulses...

) produces a highly tunable
Tunable laser
A tunable laser is a laser whose wavelength of operation can be altered in a controlled manner. While all laser gain media allow small shifts in output wavelength, only a few types of lasers allow continuous tuning over a significant wavelength range....

 infrared
Infrared
Infrared light is electromagnetic radiation with a wavelength longer than that of visible light, measured from the nominal edge of visible red light at 0.74 micrometres , and extending conventionally to 300 µm...

 laser, commonly used for spectroscopy
Spectroscopy
Spectroscopy is the study of the interaction between matter and radiated energy. Historically, spectroscopy originated through the study of visible light dispersed according to its wavelength, e.g., by a prism. Later the concept was expanded greatly to comprise any interaction with radiative...

. It is also notable for use as a mode-locked laser producing ultrashort pulse
Ultrashort pulse
In optics, an ultrashort pulse of light is an electromagnetic pulse whose time duration is of the order of a femtosecond . Such pulses have a broadband optical spectrum, and can be created by mode-locked oscillators...

s of extremely high peak power.

Thermal limitations in solid-state lasers arise from unconverted pump power that manifests itself as heat. This heat, when coupled with a high thermo-optic coefficient (dn/dT) can give rise to thermal lensing as well as reduced quantum efficiency. These types of issues can be overcome by another novel diode-pumped solid-state laser, the diode-pumped thin disk laser
Disk laser
A disk laser or active mirror is a type of solid-state laser characterized by a heat sink and laser output that are realized on opposite sides of a thin layer of active gain medium...

. The thermal limitations in this laser type are mitigated by using a laser medium geometry in which the thickness is much smaller than the diameter of the pump beam. This allows for a more even thermal gradient in the material. Thin disk laser
Disk laser
A disk laser or active mirror is a type of solid-state laser characterized by a heat sink and laser output that are realized on opposite sides of a thin layer of active gain medium...

s have been shown to produce up to kilowatt levels of power.

Fiber lasers


Solid-state lasers or laser amplifiers where the light is guided due to the total internal reflection
Total internal reflection
Total internal reflection is an optical phenomenon that happens when a ray of light strikes a medium boundary at an angle larger than a particular critical angle with respect to the normal to the surface. If the refractive index is lower on the other side of the boundary and the incident angle is...

 in a single mode optical fiber
Optical fiber
An optical fiber is a flexible, transparent fiber made of a pure glass not much wider than a human hair. It functions as a waveguide, or "light pipe", to transmit light between the two ends of the fiber. The field of applied science and engineering concerned with the design and application of...

 are instead called fiber laser
Fiber laser
A fiber laser or fibre laser is a laser in which the active gain medium is an optical fiber doped with rare-earth elements such as erbium, ytterbium, neodymium, dysprosium, praseodymium, and thulium. They are related to doped fiber amplifiers, which provide light amplification without lasing...

s. Guiding of light allows extremely long gain regions providing good cooling conditions; fibers have high surface area to volume ratio which allows efficient cooling. In addition, the fiber's waveguiding properties tend to reduce thermal distortion of the beam. Erbium
Erbium
Erbium is a chemical element in the lanthanide series, with the symbol Er and atomic number 68. A silvery-white solid metal when artificially isolated, natural erbium is always found in chemical combination with other elements on Earth...

 and ytterbium
Ytterbium
Ytterbium is a chemical element with the symbol Yb and atomic number 70. A soft silvery metallic element, ytterbium is a rare earth element of the lanthanide series and is found in the minerals gadolinite, monazite, and xenotime. The element is sometimes associated with yttrium or other related...

 ions are common active species in such lasers.

Quite often, the fiber laser is designed as a double-clad fiber
Double-clad fiber
Double-clad fiber is a class of optical fiber with a structure consisting of three layers of optical material instead of the usual two. The inner-most layer is called the core. It is surrounded by the inner cladding, which is surrounded by the outer cladding...

. This type of fiber consists of a fiber core, an inner cladding and an outer cladding. The index of the three concentric layers is chosen so that the fiber core acts as a single-mode fiber for the laser emission while the outer cladding acts as a highly multimode core for the pump laser. This lets the pump propagate a large amount of power into and through the active inner core region, while still having a high numerical aperture (NA) to have easy launching conditions.

Pump light can be used more efficiently by creating a fiber disk laser
Fiber disk laser
A fiber disk laser is a fiber laser with transverse delivery of the pump light. They are characterized by the pump beam not being parallel to the active core of the optical fiber , but directed to the coil of the fiber at an angle...

, or a stack of such lasers.

Fiber lasers have a fundamental limit in that the intensity of the light in the fiber cannot be so high that optical nonlinearities induced by the local electric field strength can become dominant and prevent laser operation and/or lead to the material destruction of the fiber. This effect is called photodarkening
Photodarkening
Photodarkening is optical effect observed in interaction of laser radiation withamorphous media in optical fibers.Until now, such creation of color centers was reported only in glassfibers...

. In bulk laser materials, the cooling is not so efficient, and it is difficult to separate the effects of photodarkening from the thermal effects, but the experiments in fibers show that the photodarkening can be attributed to the formation of long-living color centers.

Photonic crystal lasers


Photonic crystal lasers are lasers based on nano-structures that provide the mode confinement and the density of optical states
Density of states
In solid-state and condensed matter physics, the density of states of a system describes the number of states per interval of energy at each energy level that are available to be occupied by electrons. Unlike isolated systems, like atoms or molecules in gas phase, the density distributions are not...

 (DOS) structure required for the feedback to take place. They are typical micrometre-sized and tunable on the bands of the photonic crystals.

Semiconductor lasers



Semiconductor lasers are diodes which are electrically pumped. Recombination of electrons and holes created by the applied current introduces optical gain. Reflection from the ends of the crystal form an optical resonator, although the resonator can be external to the semiconductor in some designs.

Commercial laser diode
Laser diode
The laser diode is a laser where the active medium is a semiconductor similar to that found in a light-emitting diode. The most common type of laser diode is formed from a p-n junction and powered by injected electric current...

s emit at wavelengths from 375 nm to 1800 nm, and wavelengths of over 3 µm have been demonstrated. Low to medium power laser diodes are used in laser printer
Laser printer
A laser printer is a common type of computer printer that rapidly produces high quality text and graphics on plain paper. As with digital photocopiers and multifunction printers , laser printers employ a xerographic printing process, but differ from analog photocopiers in that the image is produced...

s and CD/DVD players. Laser diodes are also frequently used to optically pump
Laser pumping
Laser pumping is the act of energy transfer from an external source into the gain medium of a laser. The energy is absorbed in the medium, producing excited states in its atoms. When the number of particles in one excited state exceeds the number of particles in the ground state or a less-excited...

 other lasers with high efficiency. The highest power industrial laser diodes, with power up to 10 kW (70dBm), are used in industry for cutting and welding. External-cavity semiconductor lasers have a semiconductor active medium in a larger cavity. These devices can generate high power outputs with good beam quality, wavelength-tunable narrow-linewidth radiation, or ultrashort laser pulses.

Vertical cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSEL
VCSEL
The vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser, or VCSEL , is a type of semiconductor laser diode with laser beam emission perpendicular from the top surface, contrary to conventional edge-emitting semiconductor lasers which emit from surfaces formed by cleaving the individual chip out of a...

s) are semiconductor lasers whose emission direction is perpendicular to the surface of the wafer. VCSEL devices typically have a more circular output beam than conventional laser diodes, and potentially could be much cheaper to manufacture. As of 2005, only 850 nm VCSELs are widely available, with 1300 nm VCSELs beginning to be commercialized, and 1550 nm devices an area of research. VECSEL
VECSEL
A vertical-external-cavity surface-emitting-laser is a small semiconductor laser similar to a vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser...

s are external-cavity VCSELs. Quantum cascade laser
Quantum cascade laser
Quantum cascade lasers are semiconductor lasers that emit in the mid- to far-infrared portion of the electromagnetic spectrum and were first demonstrated by Jerome Faist, Federico Capasso, Deborah Sivco, Carlo Sirtori, Albert Hutchinson, and Alfred Cho at Bell Laboratories in 1994.Unlike typical...

s are semiconductor lasers that have an active transition between energy sub-bands of an electron in a structure containing several quantum well
Quantum well
A quantum well is a potential well with only discrete energy values.One technology to create quantization is to confine particles, which were originally free to move in three dimensions, to two dimensions, forcing them to occupy a planar region...

s.

The development of a silicon
Silicon
Silicon is a chemical element with the symbol Si and atomic number 14. A tetravalent metalloid, it is less reactive than its chemical analog carbon, the nonmetal directly above it in the periodic table, but more reactive than germanium, the metalloid directly below it in the table...

 laser is important in the field of optical computing. Silicon is the material of choice for integrated circuits, and so electronic and silicon photonic components (such as optical interconnect
Optical interconnect
Optical interconnect is a way of communication by optical cables. Compared to traditional cables, optical wires are capable of a much higher bandwidth, from 10 Gb/s up to 100 Gb/s....

s) could be fabricated on the same chip. Unfortunately, silicon is a difficult lasing material to deal with, since it has certain properties which block lasing. However, recently teams have produced silicon lasers through methods such as fabricating the lasing material from silicon and other semiconductor materials, such as indium(III) phosphide
Indium(III) phosphide
Indium phosphide is a binary semiconductor composed of indium and phosphorus. It has a face-centered cubic crystal structure, identical to that of GaAs and most of the III-V semiconductors....

 or gallium(III) arsenide
Gallium(III) arsenide
Gallium arsenide is a compound of the elements gallium and arsenic. It is a III/V semiconductor, and is used in the manufacture of devices such as microwave frequency integrated circuits, monolithic microwave integrated circuits, infrared light-emitting diodes, laser diodes, solar cells and...

, materials which allow coherent light to be produced from silicon. These are called hybrid silicon laser
Hybrid silicon laser
A hybrid silicon laser is a semiconductor laser fabricated from both silicon and group III-V semiconductor materials. The hybrid silicon laser was developed to address the lack of a silicon laser to enable fabrication of low-cost, mass-producible silicon optical devices...

. Another type is a Raman laser
Raman laser
The Raman laser is a byproduct of Raman scattering, discovered in 1928 by Nobel laureate Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman and Kariamanickam Srinivasa Krishnan in liquids and independently by Grigory Landsberg and Leonid Mandelshtam in crystals. When light hits a substance, it causes the atoms in the...

, which takes advantage of Raman scattering
Raman scattering
Raman scattering or the Raman effect is the inelastic scattering of a photon. It was discovered by Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman and Kariamanickam Srinivasa Krishnan in liquids, and by Grigory Landsberg and Leonid Mandelstam in crystals....

 to produce a laser from materials such as silicon.

Dye lasers


Dye laser
Dye laser
A dye laser is a laser which uses an organic dye as the lasing medium, usually as a liquid solution. Compared to gases and most solid state lasing media, a dye can usually be used for a much wider range of wavelengths. The wide bandwidth makes them particularly suitable for tunable lasers and...

s use an organic dye as the gain medium. The wide gain spectrum of available dyes, or mixtures of dyes, allows these lasers to be highly tunable, or to produce very short-duration pulses (on the order of a few femtoseconds). Although these tunable laser
Tunable laser
A tunable laser is a laser whose wavelength of operation can be altered in a controlled manner. While all laser gain media allow small shifts in output wavelength, only a few types of lasers allow continuous tuning over a significant wavelength range....

s are mainly known in their liquid form, researchers have also demonstrated narrow-linewidth tunable emission in dispersive oscillator configurations incorporating solid-state dye gain media. In their most prevalent form these solid state dye lasers
Solid state dye lasers
Solid state dye lasers were introduced in 1967 by Soffer and McFarland. In these solid state lasers, the gain medium is a laser dye-doped organic matrix such as poly , rather than a liquid solution of the dye...

 use dye-doped polymers as laser media.

Free electron lasers


Free electron laser
Free electron laser
A free-electron laser, or FEL, is a laser that shares the same optical properties as conventional lasers such as emitting a beam consisting of coherent electromagnetic radiation which can reach high power, but which uses some very different operating principles to form the beam...

s, or FELs, generate coherent, high power radiation, that is widely tunable, currently ranging in wavelength from microwaves, through terahertz radiation
Terahertz radiation
In physics, terahertz radiation refers to electromagnetic waves propagating at frequencies in the terahertz range. It is synonymously termed submillimeter radiation, terahertz waves, terahertz light, T-rays, T-waves, T-light, T-lux, THz...

 and infrared, to the visible spectrum, to soft X-rays. They have the widest frequency range of any laser type. While FEL beams share the same optical traits as other lasers, such as coherent radiation, FEL operation is quite different. Unlike gas, liquid, or solid-state lasers, which rely on bound atomic or molecular states, FELs use a relativistic electron beam as the lasing medium, hence the term free electron.

Bio laser


Living cells can be genetically engineered to produce Green fluorescent protein
Green fluorescent protein
The green fluorescent protein is a protein composed of 238 amino acid residues that exhibits bright green fluorescence when exposed to blue light. Although many other marine organisms have similar green fluorescent proteins, GFP traditionally refers to the protein first isolated from the...

 (GFP). The GFP is used as the laser's "gain medium", where light amplification takes place. The cells are then placed between two tiny mirrors, just 20 millionths of a metre across, which acted as the "laser cavity" in which light could bounce many times through the cell. Upon bathing the cell with blue light, it could be seen to emit directed and intense green laser light.

Exotic laser media


In September 2007, the BBC News
BBC News
BBC News is the department of the British Broadcasting Corporation responsible for the gathering and broadcasting of news and current affairs. The department is the world's largest broadcast news organisation and generates about 120 hours of radio and television output each day, as well as online...

 reported that there was speculation about the possibility of using positronium
Positronium
Positronium is a system consisting of an electron and its anti-particle, a positron, bound together into an "exotic atom". Being unstable, the two particles annihilate each other to produce two gamma ray photons after an average lifetime of 125 ps or three gamma ray photons after 142 ns in...

 annihilation
Annihilation
Annihilation is defined as "total destruction" or "complete obliteration" of an object; having its root in the Latin nihil . A literal translation is "to make into nothing"....

 to drive a very powerful gamma ray
Gamma ray
Gamma radiation, also known as gamma rays or hyphenated as gamma-rays and denoted as γ, is electromagnetic radiation of high frequency . Gamma rays are usually naturally produced on Earth by decay of high energy states in atomic nuclei...

 laser. Dr. David Cassidy of the University of California, Riverside
University of California, Riverside
The University of California, Riverside, commonly known as UCR or UC Riverside, is a public research university and one of the ten general campuses of the University of California system. UCR is consistently ranked as one of the most ethnically and economically diverse universities in the United...

 proposed that a single such laser could be used to ignite a nuclear fusion
Nuclear fusion
Nuclear fusion is the process by which two or more atomic nuclei join together, or "fuse", to form a single heavier nucleus. This is usually accompanied by the release or absorption of large quantities of energy...

 reaction, replacing the banks of hundreds of lasers currently employed in inertial confinement fusion
Inertial confinement fusion
Inertial confinement fusion is a process where nuclear fusion reactions are initiated by heating and compressing a fuel target, typically in the form of a pellet that most often contains a mixture of deuterium and tritium....

 experiments.

Space-based X-ray laser
X-ray laser
An X-ray laser is a device that uses stimulated emission to generate or amplify electromagnetic radiation in the near X-ray or extreme ultraviolet region of the spectrum, that is, usually on the order of several of tens of nanometers wavelength.Because of high gain in the lasing medium, short...

s pumped by a nuclear explosion have also been proposed as antimissile weapons. Such devices would be one-shot weapons.

Uses



When lasers were invented in 1960, they were called "a solution looking for a problem". Since then, they have become ubiquitous, finding utility in thousands of highly varied applications in every section of modern society, including consumer electronics
Consumer electronics
Consumer electronics are electronic equipment intended for everyday use, most often in entertainment, communications and office productivity. Radio broadcasting in the early 20th century brought the first major consumer product, the broadcast receiver...

, information technology
Information technology
Information technology is the acquisition, processing, storage and dissemination of vocal, pictorial, textual and numerical information by a microelectronics-based combination of computing and telecommunications...

, science
Science
Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe...

, medicine
Medicine
Medicine is the science and art of healing. It encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness....

, industry
Industry
Industry refers to the production of an economic good or service within an economy.-Industrial sectors:There are four key industrial economic sectors: the primary sector, largely raw material extraction industries such as mining and farming; the secondary sector, involving refining, construction,...

, law enforcement
Law enforcement
Law enforcement broadly refers to any system by which some members of society act in an organized manner to promote adherence to the law by discovering and punishing persons who violate the rules and norms governing that society...

, entertainment
Entertainment
Entertainment consists of any activity which provides a diversion or permits people to amuse themselves in their leisure time. Entertainment is generally passive, such as watching opera or a movie. Active forms of amusement, such as sports, are more often considered to be recreation...

, and the military.

The first use of lasers in the daily lives of the general population was the supermarket barcode
Barcode
A barcode is an optical machine-readable representation of data, which shows data about the object to which it attaches. Originally barcodes represented data by varying the widths and spacings of parallel lines, and may be referred to as linear or 1 dimensional . Later they evolved into rectangles,...

 scanner, introduced in 1974. The laserdisc
Laserdisc
LaserDisc was a home video format and the first commercial optical disc storage medium. Initially licensed, sold, and marketed as MCA DiscoVision in North America in 1978, the technology was previously referred to interally as Optical Videodisc System, Reflective Optical Videodisc, Laser Optical...

 player, introduced in 1978, was the first successful consumer product to include a laser but the compact disc
Compact Disc
The Compact Disc is an optical disc used to store digital data. It was originally developed to store and playback sound recordings exclusively, but later expanded to encompass data storage , write-once audio and data storage , rewritable media , Video Compact Discs , Super Video Compact Discs ,...

 player was the first laser-equipped device to become common, beginning in 1982 followed shortly by laser printer
Laser printer
A laser printer is a common type of computer printer that rapidly produces high quality text and graphics on plain paper. As with digital photocopiers and multifunction printers , laser printers employ a xerographic printing process, but differ from analog photocopiers in that the image is produced...

s.

Some other uses are:
  • Medicine
    Medicine
    Medicine is the science and art of healing. It encompasses a variety of health care practices evolved to maintain and restore health by the prevention and treatment of illness....

    : Bloodless surgery
    Bloodless surgery
    Bloodless surgery is a term that was popularized at the beginning of the 20th century by the practice of an internationally famous orthopedic surgeon, Adolf Lorenz, who was known as "the bloodless surgeon of Vienna." This expression reflected Lorenz's methods for treating patients with noninvasive...

    , laser healing, surgical treatment
    Surgery
    Surgery is an ancient medical specialty that uses operative manual and instrumental techniques on a patient to investigate and/or treat a pathological condition such as disease or injury, or to help improve bodily function or appearance.An act of performing surgery may be called a surgical...

    , kidney stone
    Kidney stone
    A kidney stone, also known as a renal calculus is a solid concretion or crystal aggregation formed in the kidneys from dietary minerals in the urine...

     treatment, eye treatment, dentistry
    Dentistry
    Dentistry is the branch of medicine that is involved in the study, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases, disorders and conditions of the oral cavity, maxillofacial area and the adjacent and associated structures and their impact on the human body. Dentistry is widely considered...

  • Industry
    Industry
    Industry refers to the production of an economic good or service within an economy.-Industrial sectors:There are four key industrial economic sectors: the primary sector, largely raw material extraction industries such as mining and farming; the secondary sector, involving refining, construction,...

    : Cutting, welding
    Welding
    Welding is a fabrication or sculptural process that joins materials, usually metals or thermoplastics, by causing coalescence. This is often done by melting the workpieces and adding a filler material to form a pool of molten material that cools to become a strong joint, with pressure sometimes...

    , material heat treatment, marking parts, non-contact measurement of parts
  • Military
    Military
    A military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats. The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g...

    : Marking targets, guiding munitions, missile defence, electro-optical countermeasures (EOCM), alternative to radar
    Radar
    Radar is an object-detection system which uses radio waves to determine the range, altitude, direction, or speed of objects. It can be used to detect aircraft, ships, spacecraft, guided missiles, motor vehicles, weather formations, and terrain. The radar dish or antenna transmits pulses of radio...

    , blinding troops.
  • Law enforcement
    Law enforcement agency
    In North American English, a law enforcement agency is a government agency responsible for the enforcement of the laws.Outside North America, such organizations are called police services. In North America, some of these services are called police while others have other names In North American...

    : used for latent fingerprint
    Fingerprint
    A fingerprint in its narrow sense is an impression left by the friction ridges of a human finger. In a wider use of the term, fingerprints are the traces of an impression from the friction ridges of any part of a human hand. A print from the foot can also leave an impression of friction ridges...

     detection in the forensic identification
    Forensic identification
    Forensic identification is the application of forensic science, or "forensics", and technology to identify specific objects from the trace evidence they leave, often at a crime scene or the scene of an accident. Forensic means "for the courts"....

     field
  • Research
    Research
    Research can be defined as the scientific search for knowledge, or as any systematic investigation, to establish novel facts, solve new or existing problems, prove new ideas, or develop new theories, usually using a scientific method...

    : Spectroscopy
    Spectroscopy
    Spectroscopy is the study of the interaction between matter and radiated energy. Historically, spectroscopy originated through the study of visible light dispersed according to its wavelength, e.g., by a prism. Later the concept was expanded greatly to comprise any interaction with radiative...

    , laser ablation
    Laser ablation
    Laser ablation is the process of removing material from a solid surface by irradiating it with a laser beam. At low laser flux, the material is heated by the absorbed laser energy and evaporates or sublimates. At high laser flux, the material is typically converted to a plasma...

    , laser annealing
    Annealing (metallurgy)
    Annealing, in metallurgy and materials science, is a heat treatment wherein a material is altered, causing changes in its properties such as strength and hardness. It is a process that produces conditions by heating to above the recrystallization temperature, maintaining a suitable temperature, and...

    , laser scattering
    Scattering
    Scattering is a general physical process where some forms of radiation, such as light, sound, or moving particles, are forced to deviate from a straight trajectory by one or more localized non-uniformities in the medium through which they pass. In conventional use, this also includes deviation of...

    , laser interferometry
    Interferometry
    Interferometry refers to a family of techniques in which electromagnetic waves are superimposed in order to extract information about the waves. An instrument used to interfere waves is called an interferometer. Interferometry is an important investigative technique in the fields of astronomy,...

    , LIDAR
    LIDAR
    LIDAR is an optical remote sensing technology that can measure the distance to, or other properties of a target by illuminating the target with light, often using pulses from a laser...

    , laser capture microdissection
    Laser capture microdissection
    Laser capture microdissection , also called Microdissection, Laser MicroDissection , or Laser-assisted microdissection is a method for isolating specific cells of interest from microscopic regions of tissue/cells/organisms....

    , fluorescence microscopy
  • Product development/commercial: laser printer
    Laser printer
    A laser printer is a common type of computer printer that rapidly produces high quality text and graphics on plain paper. As with digital photocopiers and multifunction printers , laser printers employ a xerographic printing process, but differ from analog photocopiers in that the image is produced...

    s, optical discs (e.g. CDs and the like), barcode
    Barcode
    A barcode is an optical machine-readable representation of data, which shows data about the object to which it attaches. Originally barcodes represented data by varying the widths and spacings of parallel lines, and may be referred to as linear or 1 dimensional . Later they evolved into rectangles,...

     scanners, thermometer
    Thermometer
    Developed during the 16th and 17th centuries, a thermometer is a device that measures temperature or temperature gradient using a variety of different principles. A thermometer has two important elements: the temperature sensor Developed during the 16th and 17th centuries, a thermometer (from the...

    s, laser pointer
    Laser pointer
    A laser pointer or laser pen is a small portable device with a power source and a laser emitting a very narrow coherent low-powered beam of visible light, intended to be used to highlight something of interest by illuminating it with a small bright spot of colored light...

    s, holograms, bubblegram
    Bubblegram
    A bubblegram is a 3D image composed of points suspended in a medium, typically a plastic block. It can be described as a 3D version of the late 19th century, European, 2D art of pointillism....

    s.
  • Laser lighting display
    Laser lighting display
    A laser lighting display or laser light show involves the use of laser light to entertain an audience. A laser light show may consist only of projected laser beams set to music, or may accompany another form of entertainment, typically a dance concert or other musical performance.Laser light is...

    s: Laser light shows
  • Cosmetic skin
    Skin
    -Dermis:The dermis is the layer of skin beneath the epidermis that consists of connective tissue and cushions the body from stress and strain. The dermis is tightly connected to the epidermis by a basement membrane. It also harbors many Mechanoreceptors that provide the sense of touch and heat...

     treatments: acne
    Acne
    Acne is a general term used for acneiform eruptions. It is usually used as a synonym for acne vulgaris, but may also refer to:*Acne aestivalis*Acne conglobata*Acne cosmetica*Acne fulminans*Acne keloidalis nuchae*Acne mechanica...

     treatment, cellulite
    Cellulite
    Cellulite is a topographic skin change that occurs in most postpubertal females. It presents as a modification of skin topography evident by skin dimpling and nodularity that occurs mainly in women on the pelvic region, lower limbs, and abdomen, and is caused by the herniation of subcutaneous fat...

     and striae reduction, and hair removal
    Laser hair removal
    Laser hair removal was performed experimentally for about 20 years before it became commercially available in the mid 1990s. One of the first published articles describing laser hair removal was authored by the group at Massachusetts General Hospital in 1998...

    .


In 2004, excluding diode lasers, approximately 131,000 lasers were sold with a value of US$2.19 billion. In the same year, approximately 733 million diode lasers, valued at $3.20 billion, were sold.

Examples by power



Different applications need lasers with different output powers. Lasers that produce a continuous beam or a series of short pulses can be compared on the basis of their average power. Lasers that produce pulses can also be characterized based on the peak power of each pulse. The peak power of a pulsed laser is many orders of magnitude greater than its average power. The average output power is always less than the power consumed.
The continuous or average power required for some uses:
Power Use
Laser pointer
Laser pointer
A laser pointer or laser pen is a small portable device with a power source and a laser emitting a very narrow coherent low-powered beam of visible light, intended to be used to highlight something of interest by illuminating it with a small bright spot of colored light...

s
CD-ROM
CD-ROM
A CD-ROM is a pre-pressed compact disc that contains data accessible to, but not writable by, a computer for data storage and music playback. The 1985 “Yellow Book” standard developed by Sony and Philips adapted the format to hold any form of binary data....

 drive
DVD player
DVD player
A DVD player is a device that plays discs produced under both the DVD-Video and DVD-Audio technical standards, two different and incompatible standards. These devices were invented in 1997 and continue to thrive...

 or DVD-ROM drive
High-speed CD-RW
CD-RW
A CD-RW is a rewritable optical disc. It was introduced in 1997, and was known as "CD-Writable" during development. It was preceded by the CD-MO, which was never commercially released....

 burner
Consumer 16x DVD-R
DVD-R
DVD-R is a DVD recordable format. A DVD-R typically has a storage capacity of 4.71 GB. Pioneer has also developed an 8.5 GB dual layer version, DVD-R DL, which appeared on the market in 2005....

 burner
Burning through a jewel case including disk within
DVD 24x dual-layer recording.
Green laser in current Holographic Versatile Disc
Holographic Versatile Disc
The Holographic Versatile Disc is an optical disc technology developed between April 2004 and mid-2008 that can store up to several terabytes of data on an optical disc the same size as a CD, DVD or Blu-ray disc. It employs a technique known as collinear holography, whereby a green and red laser...

 prototype development
Output of the majority of commercially available solid-state lasers used for micro machining
Micromachinery
Micromachines are mechanical objects that are fabricated in the same general manner as integrated circuits. They are generally considered to be between 100 nanometres to 100 micrometres in size, though that is debatable. The applications of micromachines include accelerometers that detect when a...

Typical sealed CO2 surgical lasers
Typical sealed CO2 lasers used in industrial laser cutting
Laser cutting
Laser cutting is a technology that uses a laser to cut materials, and is typically used for industrial manufacturing applications, but is also starting to be used by schools, small businesses and hobbyists. Laser cutting works by directing the output of a high-power laser, by computer, at the...

Output power achieved by a diode laser bar
Claimed output of a CO2 laser being developed by Northrop Grumman
Northrop Grumman
Northrop Grumman Corporation is an American global aerospace and defense technology company formed by the 1994 purchase of Grumman by Northrop. The company was the fourth-largest defense contractor in the world as of 2010, and the largest builder of naval vessels. Northrop Grumman employs over...

 for military (weapon) applications


Examples of pulsed systems with high peak power:
  • 700 TW (700×1012 W) – National Ignition Facility
    National Ignition Facility
    The National Ignition Facility, or NIF is a large, laser-based inertial confinement fusion research device located at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California. NIF uses powerful lasers to heat and compress a small amount of hydrogen fuel to the point where nuclear fusion...

    , a 192-beam, 1.8-megajoule laser system adjoining a 10-meter-diameter target chamber.
  • 1.3 PW (1.3×1015 W) – world's most powerful laser as of 1998, located at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory

Hobby uses


In recent years, some hobbyists have taken interests in lasers. Lasers used by hobbyists are generally of class IIIa or IIIb, although some have made their own class IV types. However, compared to other hobbyists, laser hobbyists are far less common, due to the cost and potential dangers involved. Due to the cost of lasers, some hobbyists use inexpensive means to obtain lasers, such as salvaging laser diodes from broken DVD players (red), Blu-ray players (violet), or even higher power laser diodes from CD or DVD burners.

Hobbyists also have been taking surplus pulsed lasers from retired military applications and modifying them for pulsed holography. Pulsed Ruby and pulsed YAG lasers have been used.

Safety




Even the first laser was recognized as being potentially dangerous. Theodore Maiman characterized the first laser as having a power of one "Gillette" as it could burn through one Gillette
Global Gillette
Gillette is a brand of Procter & Gamble currently used for safety razors, among other personal care products. Based in Boston, Massachusetts, United States, it was one of several brands originally owned by The Gillette Company, a leading global supplier of products under various brands, which was...

 razor blade
Razor
A razor is a bladed tool primarily used in the removal of unwanted body hair through the act of shaving. Kinds of razors include straight razors, disposable razors and electric razors....

. Today, it is accepted that even low-power lasers with only a few milliwatts of output power can be hazardous to human eyesight, when the beam from such a laser hits the eye directly or after reflection from a shiny surface. At wavelengths which the cornea
Cornea
The cornea is the transparent front part of the eye that covers the iris, pupil, and anterior chamber. Together with the lens, the cornea refracts light, with the cornea accounting for approximately two-thirds of the eye's total optical power. In humans, the refractive power of the cornea is...

 and the lens can focus well, the coherence and low divergence of laser light means that it can be focused by the eye
Human eye
The human eye is an organ which reacts to light for several purposes. As a conscious sense organ, the eye allows vision. Rod and cone cells in the retina allow conscious light perception and vision including color differentiation and the perception of depth...

 into an extremely small spot on the retina
Retina
The vertebrate retina is a light-sensitive tissue lining the inner surface of the eye. The optics of the eye create an image of the visual world on the retina, which serves much the same function as the film in a camera. Light striking the retina initiates a cascade of chemical and electrical...

, resulting in localized burning and permanent damage in seconds or even less time.

Lasers are usually labeled with a safety class number, which identifies how dangerous the laser is:
  • Class I/1 is inherently safe, usually because the light is contained in an enclosure, for example in CD players.
  • Class II/2 is safe during normal use; the blink reflex of the eye will prevent damage. Usually up to 1 mW power, for example laser pointer
    Laser pointer
    A laser pointer or laser pen is a small portable device with a power source and a laser emitting a very narrow coherent low-powered beam of visible light, intended to be used to highlight something of interest by illuminating it with a small bright spot of colored light...

    s.
  • Class IIIa/3R lasers are usually up to 5 mW and involve a small risk of eye damage within the time of the blink reflex. Staring into such a beam for several seconds is likely to cause damage to a spot on the retina.
  • Class IIIb/3B can cause immediate eye damage upon exposure.
  • Class IV/4 lasers can burn skin, and in some cases, even scattered light can cause eye and/or skin damage. Many industrial and scientific lasers are in this class.

The indicated powers are for visible-light, continuous-wave lasers. For pulsed lasers and invisible wavelengths, other power limits apply. People working with class 3B and class 4 lasers can protect their eyes with safety goggles which are designed to absorb light of a particular wavelength.

Certain infrared lasers with wavelengths beyond about 1.4 micrometres are often referred to as being "eye-safe". This is because the intrinsic molecular vibrations of water
Water
Water is a chemical substance with the chemical formula H2O. A water molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms connected by covalent bonds. Water is a liquid at ambient conditions, but it often co-exists on Earth with its solid state, ice, and gaseous state . Water also exists in a...

 molecules very strongly absorb light in this part of the spectrum, and thus a laser beam at these wavelengths is attenuated so completely as it passes through the eye's cornea that no light remains to be focused by the lens onto the retina
Retina
The vertebrate retina is a light-sensitive tissue lining the inner surface of the eye. The optics of the eye create an image of the visual world on the retina, which serves much the same function as the film in a camera. Light striking the retina initiates a cascade of chemical and electrical...

. The label "eye-safe" can be misleading, however, as it only applies to relatively low power continuous wave beams; any high power or Q-switched laser at these wavelengths can burn the cornea, causing severe eye damage.

As weapons


Laser beams are famously employed as weapon systems in science fiction, but actual laser weapons
Tactical High Energy Laser
The Tactical High-Energy Laser, or THEL, is a laser developed for military use, also known as the Nautilus laser system. The mobile version is the Mobile Tactical High-Energy Laser, or MTHEL.- Demonstrator :...

 are still in the experimental stage. The general idea of laser-beam weaponry is to hit a target with a train of brief pulses of light. The rapid evaporation and expansion of the surface causes shockwaves that damage the target. The power needed to project a high-powered laser beam of this kind is
beyond the limit of current mobile power technology thus favoring chemically powered gas dynamic laser
Gas dynamic laser
Gas Dynamic Laser is laser based on differences in relaxation velocities of molecular vibrational states.The laser medium gas has such properties that an energetically lower vibrational state relaxes faster than a higher vibrational state,...

s.

Lasers of all but the lowest powers can potentially be used as incapacitating weapons, through their ability to produce temporary or permanent vision loss in varying degrees when aimed at the eyes. The degree, character, and duration of vision impairment caused by eye exposure to laser light varies with the power of the laser, the wavelength(s), the collimation of the beam, the exact orientation of the beam, and the duration of exposure. Lasers of even a fraction of a watt in power can produce immediate, permanent vision loss under certain conditions, making such lasers potential non-lethal but incapacitating weapons. The extreme handicap that laser-induced blindness represents makes the use of lasers even as non-lethal weapons morally controversial, and weapons designed to cause blindness have been banned by the Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons
Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons
The Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons, Protocol IV of the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, was issued by the United Nations on 13 October 1995...

. The U.S. Air Force is currently working on the YAL-1 airborne laser, mounted in a Boeing 747, to shoot down enemy ballistic missiles over enemy territory.

In the field of aviation, the hazards of exposure to ground-based lasers deliberately aimed at pilots have grown to the extent that aviation authorities have special procedures to deal with such hazards.

On March 18, 2009 Northrop Grumman
Northrop Grumman
Northrop Grumman Corporation is an American global aerospace and defense technology company formed by the 1994 purchase of Grumman by Northrop. The company was the fourth-largest defense contractor in the world as of 2010, and the largest builder of naval vessels. Northrop Grumman employs over...

 claimed that its engineers in Redondo Beach
Redondo Beach, California
Redondo Beach is one of the three Beach Cities located in Los Angeles County, California, United States. The population was 66,748 at the 2010 census, up from 63,261 at the 2000 census. The city is located in the South Bay region of the greater Los Angeles area.Redondo Beach was originally part of...

 had successfully built and tested an electrically powered solid state laser capable of producing a 100-kilowatt beam, powerful enough to destroy an airplane or a tank. According to Brian Strickland, manager for the United States Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

's Joint High Power Solid State Laser program, an electrically powered laser is capable
of being mounted in an aircraft, ship, or other vehicle because it requires much less space for its supporting equipment than a chemical laser. However the source of such a large electrical power in a mobile application remains unclear.

Fictional predictions



Several novelists described devices similar to lasers, prior to the discovery of stimulated emission
Stimulated emission
In optics, stimulated emission is the process by which an atomic electron interacting with an electromagnetic wave of a certain frequency may drop to a lower energy level, transferring its energy to that field. A photon created in this manner has the same phase, frequency, polarization, and...

:
  • A laser-like device was described in Alexey Tolstoy's science fiction
    Science fiction
    Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities...

     novel The Hyperboloid of Engineer Garin
    The Hyperboloid of Engineer Garin
    The Garin Death Ray also known as The Death Box and The Hyperboloid of Engineer Garin is a science fiction novel by the noted Russian author Aleksey Nikolayevich Tolstoy written in 1926–1927. It was one of the first science fiction novels in Russian...

    in 1927.
  • Mikhail Bulgakov
    Mikhail Bulgakov
    Mikhaíl Afanásyevich Bulgákov was a Soviet Russian writer and playwright active in the first half of the 20th century. He is best known for his novel The Master and Margarita, which The Times of London has called one of the masterpieces of the 20th century.-Biography:Mikhail Bulgakov was born on...

     exaggerated the biological effect (laser bio stimulation) of intensive red light in his science fiction novel Fatal Eggs (1925), without any reasonable description of the source of this red light. (In that novel, the red light first appears occasionally from the illuminating system of an advanced microscope; then the protagonist Prof. Persikov arranges the special set-up for generation of the red light.)

See also


  • Anti-laser
  • Bessel beam
    Bessel beam
    A Bessel beam is a field of electromagnetic, acoustic or even gravitational radiation whose amplitude is described by a Bessel function of the first kind. A true Bessel beam is non-diffractive. This means that as it propagates, it does not diffract and spread out; this is in contrast to the usual...

  • Holography
    Holography
    Holography is a technique that allows the light scattered from an object to be recorded and later reconstructed so that when an imaging system is placed in the reconstructed beam, an image of the object will be seen even when the object is no longer present...

  • Homogeneous broadening
    Homogeneous broadening
    Homogeneous broadening is a type of emission spectrum broadening in which all atoms radiating from a specific level under consideration radiate with equal opportunity. If an optical emitter Homogeneous broadening is a type of emission spectrum broadening in which all atoms radiating from a specific...

  • Induced gamma emission
    Induced gamma emission
    In physics, induced gamma emission refers to the process of fluorescent emission of gamma rays from excited nuclei, usually involving a specific nuclear isomer. It is analogous to conventional fluorescence, which is defined as the emission of a photon by an excited electron in an atom or molecule...

  • Injection seeder
  • International Laser Display Association
    International Laser Display Association
    The International Laser Display Association is the worldwide non-profit trade association dedicated to advancing the use of laser displays in art, entertainment and education. It was founded in August 1986...

  • Laser ablation
    Laser ablation
    Laser ablation is the process of removing material from a solid surface by irradiating it with a laser beam. At low laser flux, the material is heated by the absorbed laser energy and evaporates or sublimates. At high laser flux, the material is typically converted to a plasma...

  • Laser accelerometer
    Laser accelerometer
    A laser accelerometer comprises a frame having three orthogonal input axes and multiple proof masses, each proof mass having a predetermined blanking surface. A flexible beam supports each proof mass....

  • Laser acronyms
    Laser acronyms
    Here, is a list of acronyms used in laser physics, applications and technology.-A:*AOM – acousto-optic modulator*APD – avalanche photodiode*APM – additive-pulse mode locking*ASE – amplified spontaneous emission*ATD - above threshold dissociation...

  • Lasers and aviation safety
    Lasers and aviation safety
    Under certain conditions, laser light or other bright lights directed at aircraft can be a hazard. The most likely scenario is when a bright visible laser light causes distraction or temporary flash blindness to a pilot, during a critical phase of flight such as landing or takeoff...

  • Laser applications
    Laser applications
    Many scientific, military, medical and commercial laser applications have been developed since the invention of the laser in the 1958. The coherency, high monochromaticity, and ability to reach extremely high powers are all properties which allow for these specialized applications.-Scientific:In...

  • Laser beam profiler
    Laser beam profiler
    A laser beam profiler captures, displays, and records the spatial intensity profile of a laser beam at a particular plane transverse to the beam propagation path. Since there are many types of lasers — ultraviolet, visible, infrared, continuous wave, pulsed, high-power, low-power — there is an...

  • Laser bonding
    Laser bonding
    Laser bonding is a marking technique that uses lasers and other forms of radiant energy to bond an additive marking substance to a wide range of substrates....


  • Laser capture microdissection
    Laser capture microdissection
    Laser capture microdissection , also called Microdissection, Laser MicroDissection , or Laser-assisted microdissection is a method for isolating specific cells of interest from microscopic regions of tissue/cells/organisms....

  • Laser communication
  • Laser construction
    Laser construction
    A laser is constructed from three principal parts:*An energy source ,*A gain medium or laser medium, and*Two or more mirrors that form an optical resonator.-Pump source:...

  • Laser converting
    Laser converting
    Laser converting or laser digital converting is a production technology that enables device manufacturers to produce features that otherwise would be problematic or even impossible to die-cut, without the need for tooling....

  • Laser cooling
    Laser cooling
    Laser cooling refers to the number of techniques in which atomic and molecular samples are cooled through the interaction with one or more laser light fields...

  • Laser cutting
    Laser cutting
    Laser cutting is a technology that uses a laser to cut materials, and is typically used for industrial manufacturing applications, but is also starting to be used by schools, small businesses and hobbyists. Laser cutting works by directing the output of a high-power laser, by computer, at the...

  • Laser dazzler
  • Laser engraving
    Laser engraving
    Laser engraving, or laser marking, is the practice of using lasers to engrave or mark an object. The technique does not involve the use of inks, nor does it involve tool bits which contact the engraving surface and wear out...

  • Laser lighting display
    Laser lighting display
    A laser lighting display or laser light show involves the use of laser light to entertain an audience. A laser light show may consist only of projected laser beams set to music, or may accompany another form of entertainment, typically a dance concert or other musical performance.Laser light is...

  • Laser medicine
    Laser medicine
    Laser medicine is the use of various types of lasers in medical diagnosis, treatment, or therapy. Types of lasers used in medicine include in principle any laser design, especially:* CO2 lasers* diode lasers* dye lasers* excimer lasers* fiber lasers...

  • Laser pointer
    Laser pointer
    A laser pointer or laser pen is a small portable device with a power source and a laser emitting a very narrow coherent low-powered beam of visible light, intended to be used to highlight something of interest by illuminating it with a small bright spot of colored light...

  • Laser scalpel
    Laser scalpel
    A laser scalpel is a scalpel for surgery, cutting or ablating living biological tissue by the energy of laser light. In soft tissue laser surgery, a laser beam ablates or vaporizes the soft tissue with high water content....

  • Laser scanning
  • Laser science
    Laser science
    Laser science or laser physics is a branch of optics that describes the theory and practice of lasers.Laser science is principally concerned with quantum electronics, laser construction, optical cavity design, the physics of producing a population inversion in laser media, and the temporal...


  • Laser turntable
    Laser turntable
    A laser turntable is a phonograph that uses laser beams as the pickup to play LP gramophone records instead of a stylus .-History:...

  • Laser welding
  • List of light sources
  • Mercury laser
    Mercury laser
    The mercury laser is a high-average-power laser system being developed as a prototype for systems to drive inertial confinement fusion. Like the National Ignition Facility, it is intended to produce narrow pulses of extremely high power, using diode-pumped solid-state lasers...

  • Nanolaser
    Nanolaser
    A Nanolaser, also referred to as a miniature laser or plasmonic laser, is a laser, namely a light amplifier by stimulated emission of radiation, that has nanoscale dimensions. While the word nano originates from Greek , the international system of units has adapted the prefix as a quantifier equal...

  • Raygun
    Raygun
    Rayguns are a type of fictional directed-energy weapon. They have various alternate names: ray gun, death ray, beam gun, blaster, laser gun, phaser, etc. They are a well-known feature of science fiction; for such stories they typically have the general function of guns...

  • Reference beam
    Reference beam
    A reference beam is a laser beam used to read and write holograms. It is one of two laser beams used to create a hologram. In order to read a hologram out, some aspects of the reference beam must be reproduced exactly as when it was used to write the hologram...

  • Rytov number
    Rytov number
    The Rytov number is a fundamental scaling parameter for laser propagation through atmospheric turbulence. Rytov numbers greater than 0.2 are generally considered to be strong scintillation. A Rytov number of 0 would indicate no turbulence, thus no scintillation of the beam....

  • SASER
    Saser
    Saser may refer to:* a nickname for one of the best schools in Malaysia, Sekolah Menengah Sains Seremban* the Saser Muztagh range of the Karakoram* Sasser Pass , on the old caravan route between Ladakh and Yarkand...

  • Selective laser sintering
    Selective laser sintering
    Selective laser sintering is an additive manufacturing technique that uses a high power laser to fuse small particles of plastic, metal , ceramic, or glass powders into a mass that has a desired 3-dimensional shape...

  • Speckle pattern
    Speckle pattern
    A speckle pattern is a random intensity pattern produced by the mutual interference of a set of wavefronts. This phenomenon has been investigated by scientists since the time of Newton, but speckles have come into prominence since the invention of the laser and have now found a variety of...

  • Tophat beam
    Tophat beam
    In optics, a tophat beam is a laser beam with a near-uniform fluence within a circular disk. It is typically formed by diffractive optical elements from a Gaussian beam. Tophat beams are often used in industry, for example for laser drilling of holes in printed circuit boards...

  • US Air Force's YAL-1 Airborne Laser


External links