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A laser is a device that emits light (electromagnetic radiation) through a process of optical amplification based on the stimulated emission of photons. The term "laser" originated as an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation (Dell XPS M1210 Batteryhttp://www.hdd-shop.co.uk .

The emitted laser light is notable for its high degree of spatial and temporal coherence, unattainable using other technologies.

Spatial coherence typically is expressed through the output being a narrow beam which is diffraction-limited, often a so-called "pencil beam  Dell Studio XPS 1640 Battery .

" Laser beams can be focused to very tiny spots, achieving a very high irradiance. Or they can be launched into a beam of very low divergence in order to concentrate their power at a large distance Dell Vostro 1710 Battery .

Temporal (or longitudinal) coherence implies a polarized wave at a single frequency whose phase is correlated over a relatively large distance (thecoherence length) along the beam.A beam produced by a thermal or other incoherent light source has an instantaneous amplitude and phase which vary randomly with respect to time and position, and thus a very short coherence length Dell KM958 battery .

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 Dell Studio 1555 battery .

There are some lasers which are not single spatial mode and consequently their light beams diverge more than required by the diffraction limit. However all such devices are classified as "lasers" based on their method of producing that light: stimulated emission  Sony VGP-BPS13 battery .

Lasers are employed in applications where light of the required spatial or temporal coherence could not be produced using simpler technologies  Sony VGP-BPS13/B battery .

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 Sony VGP-BPS13/S battery .

Because the microwave predecessor of the laser, the maser, was developed first, devices of this sort operating at microwave and radio frequencies 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 anoptical maser; this term is now obsolete Sony VGP-BPS13A/B battery .  

A laser which produces light by itself is technically an optical oscillator rather than an optical amplifier 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 Sony VGP-BPS13B/B battery .

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 verb to lase is frequently used in the field, meaning "to produce laser light  Sony VGP-BPL9 battery ,

" 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 laserand maser in an extended sense, not referring to laser technology or devices, can be seen in usages such as astrophysical maserand atom laser Sony VGP-BPS13B/B battery .

A laser consists of a gain medium inside a highly reflective optical cavity, 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  Sony VGP-BPL15 battery .

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, is partially transparent. The output laser beam is emitted through this mirror  Dell Inspiron E1505 battery .

Light of a specific wavelength that passes through the gain medium is amplified (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 Dell Latitude E6400 battery .

The process of supplying the energy required for the amplification is called pumping. 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 HP Pavilion dv6000 Battery .

Most practical lasers contain additional elements that affect properties such as the wavelength of the emitted light and the shape of the beam.

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  SONY VAIO VGN-FZ Battery .

It can be of any state: gas, liquid, solid or plasma. The gain medium absorbs pump energy, which raises some electrons into higher-energy ("excited")quantum states. Particles can interact with light by either absorbing or emitting photons. Emission can be spontaneous or stimulated  SONY VAIO VGN-FZ18 Battery .

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 is achieved and the amount of stimulated emission due to light that passes through is larger than the amount of absorption  SONY VAIO VGN-FZ21E Battery .

Hence, the light is amplified. By itself, this makes an optical amplifier. When an optical amplifier is placed inside a resonant optical cavity, one obtains a laser  SONY VAIO VGN-FW31J Battery - 5200mAh/7800mAh/10400mAh, 11.10V .

The light generated by stimulated emission is very similar to the input signal in terms of wavelength, phase, 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 SONY VAIO VGN-FW31J Battery - 5200mAh/7800mAh/10400mAh, 11.10V .

The optical resonator 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  SONY VAIO VGN-FW21E Battery .

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 SONY VAIO VGN-NR11S/S Battery .

If the gain (amplification) in the medium is larger than the resonator losses, then the power of the recirculating light can riseexponentially. But each stimulated emission event returns an atom from its excited state to the ground state, reducing the gain of the medium  SONY VAIO VGN-NR11M/S Battery .

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 SONY VAIO VGN-NR11Z/S Battery .

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. The gain medium will amplify any photons passing through it, regardless of direction SONY VAIO VGN-NR11Z/T Battery ;

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 laser), can be approximated as a Gaussian beam in most lasers  Sony VAIO VGN-FZ21E Battery ;

such beams exhibit the minimum divergence for a given diameter. However some high power lasers may be multimode, with the transverse modes often approximated using Hermite-Gaussian or Laguerre-Gaussian functions. It has been shown that unstable laser resonators (not used in most lasers) produce fractal shaped beams Sony VAIO VGN-FW21E Battery .

Near the beam "waist" (or focal region) it is highly collimated: the wavefronts are planar, normal to the direction of propagation, with no beam divergence at that point. However due to diffraction, that can only remain true well within the Rayleigh range Sony VAIO VGN-NR11S/S Battery .

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 theory. Thus, the "pencil beam" directly generated by a common helium-neon laser would spread out to a size of perhaps 500 kilometers when shone on the Moon (from the distance of the earth) Sony VAIO VGN-NR11Z/S Battery .

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 lenssystem, as is always included, for instance, in a laser pointer whose light originates from a laser diode  Sony VAIO VGN-NR11M/S Battery .

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  Sony VAIO VGN-NR11Z/T Battery .

The mechanism of producing radiation in a laser relies on stimulated emission, 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 coefficientwhich applies to absorption and stimulated emission SONY VAIO VGN-FZ180E Battery .

However in the case of the free electron laser, atomic energy levels are not involved; it appears that the operation of this rather exotic device can be explained without reference to quantum mechanics      SONY VAIO VGN-FZ220E Battery .

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 SONY VAIO VGN-FZ340E Battery .

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 lifetimeand the time period over which energy can be stored in the lasing medium or pumping mechanism  SONY VAIO VGN-FZ430E Battery ,

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  SONY VAIO VGN-FZ460E Battery .

Such a laser is known as continuous wave (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  SONY VAIO VGN-FZ480E Battery ,

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 lessSONY VAIO VGN-FZ4000 Battery .

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) SONY VAIO VGN-FZ31E Battery .

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 SONY VAIO VGN-FZ31B Battery .

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  SONY VAIO VGN-FZ31J Battery .

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  SONY VAIO VGN-FZ31M Battery .

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 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  SONY VAIO VGN-FZ31Z Battery ,

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  SONY VAIO VGN-FZ38M Battery .

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  SONY VGP-BPS8 Battery .

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  SONY VGP-BPS13/S Battery .

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)  SONY VGP-BPS13A/B Battery .

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 SONY VGP-BPS13B/B Battery (

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  SONY VGP-BPS13A/S Battery .

A mode-locked laser is capable of emitting extremely short pulses on the order of tens of picoseconds 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  SONY VGP-BPS13AS Battery .

Due to the Fourier limit (also known as energy-time uncertainty), 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  Dell Inspiron 1320n Battery .

An example of a suitable material istitanium-doped, artificially grown sapphire (Ti:sapphire) which has a very wide gain bandwidth and can thus produce pulses of only a few femtoseconds duration     Dell Inspiron 1464 Battery .

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 in optical materialsDell Inspiron 1564 Battery

(e.g. in second-harmonic generation, parametric down-conversion, optical parametric oscillators 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  Dell Inspiron 1764 Battery .

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   Dell Studio 1450 Battery .

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  Dell Studio 1457 Battery .

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  Dell Latitude D610 Battery .

Foundations

In 1917, Albert Einstein established the theoretic foundations for the laser and the maser in the paper Zur Quantentheorie der Strahlung (On the Quantum Theory of Radiation)     Toshiba NB100 Battery ;

via a re-derivation of Max Planck’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  Toshiba Satellite M65 battery ;

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  Toshiba Satellite M60 battery ;

in 1950,Alfred Kastler (Nobel Prize for Physics 1966) proposed the method of optical pumping, experimentally confirmed, two years later, by Brossel, Kastler, and Winter.

Maser

In 1953, Charles Hard Townes and graduate students James P. Gordon and Herbert J. Zeiger produced the first microwave amplifierDell Latitude D830 Battery ,

a device operating on similar principles to the laser, but amplifyingmicrowave radiation rather than infrared or visible radiation. Townes's maser was incapable of continuous output      Dell Latitude D620 Battery .

Meanwhile, in the Soviet Union, Nikolay Basov and Aleksandr Prokhorovwere independently working on the quantum oscillator and solved the problem of continuous-output systems by using more than two energy levels. These gain media could release stimulated emissionsbetween an excited state and a lower excited state         Dell Inspiron Mini 10 Battery ,

not the ground state, facilitating the maintenance of a population inversion. 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  Sony VGN-FW11S Battery .

Townes reports that several eminent physicists — among them Niels Bohr, John von Neumann, Isidor Rabi, Polykarp Kusch, and Llewellyn Thomas — argued the maser violated Heisenberg'suncertainty principle and hence could not work. In 1964 Charles H. Townes, Nikolay Basov, and Aleksandr Prokhorov shared the Nobel Prize in Physics Sony VGN-FW11M Battery ,

“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 and Arthur Leonard Schawlow, then at Bell Labs, began a serious study of the infrared laser  Sony VGN-FW139E/H battery .

As ideas developed, they abandoned infrared radiation to instead concentrate upon visible light. The concept originally was called an "optical maser". In 1958, Bell Labs filed a patent application for their proposed optical maser; and Schawlow and Townes submitted a manuscript of their theoretical calculations to the Physical Review, published that year in Volume 112, Issue No. 6 Dell Latitude E5400 Battery .

Simultaneously, at Columbia University, graduate student Gordon Gould was working on a doctoral thesis about the energy levels of excited thallium. 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 Dell Latitude E4200 Battery .

Moreover, in 1958, Prokhorov independently proposed using an open resonator, the first published appearance (the USSR) of this idea. Elsewhere, in the US, Schawlow and Townes had agreed to an open-resonator laser design — apparently unaware of Prokhorov’s publications and Gould’s unpublished laser work Dell Inspiron 300M Battery .

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  Dell Vostro A840 Battery ;

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, interferometry, radar, and nuclear fusion Dell Studio 1737 battery .

He continued developing the idea, and filed a patent application in April 1959. The U.S. Patent Office denied his application, and awarded a patent to Bell Labs, in 1960. That provoked a twenty-eight-year lawsuit, featuring scientific prestige and money as the stakes  Dell Inspiron E1505 battery .

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 US Patent Office to issue patents to Gould for the optically pumped and the gas discharge laser devices Dell RM791 battery .

In 1960, Theodore H. Maiman constructed the first functioning laser,  at Hughes Research Laboratories, Malibu, California, ahead of several research teams, including those of Townes, at Columbia University, Arthur Schawlow, at Bell Labs, and Gould, at the TRG (Technical Research Group) company Dell XPS M1530 battery .

Maiman’s functional laser used a solid-state flashlamp-pumped synthetic ruby crystal 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  Dell XPS M2010 battery .

Later in 1960, the Iranianphysicist Ali Javan, and William R. Bennett, and Donald Herriot, constructed the first gas laser, using helium and neon that was capable of continuous operation in the infrared (US Patent 3,149,290); later, Javan received the Albert Einstein Award in 1993  Acer Aspire One battery .

Basov and Javan proposed the semiconductorlaser diode concept. In 1962, Robert N. Hall demonstrated the first laser diode device, made of gallium arsenide and emitted at 850 nm the near-infraredband of the spectrum. Later, in 1962, Nick Holonyak, Jr. demonstrated the first semiconductor laser with a visible emission Toshiba Satellite P10 Battery .

This first semiconductor laser could only be used in pulsed-beam operation, and when cooled to liquid nitrogen temperatures (77?K). In 1970, Zhores Alferov, 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 structure SONY VGN-FZ210CE Battery .

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 Dell Precision M70 Battery :

and this research continues to this day.

Lasing without maintaining the medium excited into a population inversion was discovered in 1992 in sodium gas and again in 1995 inrubidium gas by various international teams      Toshiba PA3399U-2BRS battery .

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      Toshiba Satellite A200 Battery .

Following the invention of the HeNe gas laser, many other gas discharges have been found to amplify light coherently. Gas lasers using many different gases have been built and used for many purposes. The helium-neon laser (HeNe) is able to operate at a number of different wavelengths, however the vast majority are engineered to lase at 633 nm Toshiba Satellite 1200 Battery ;

these relatively low cost but highly coherent lasers are extremely common in optical research and educational laboratories. Commercial carbon dioxide (CO2) lasers can emit many hundreds of watts in a single spatial mode which can be concentrated into a tiny spot  Toshiba Satellite M300 Battery .

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 lasers can operate at a number of lasing transitions between 351 and 528.7 nmSONY VGP-BPS13A/Q Battery .

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 is an inexpensive gas laser, often home-built by hobbyists, which produces rather incoherent UV light at 337.1 nm SONY VGP-BPS13A/Q Battery .

Metal ion lasers are gas lasers that generate deep ultraviolet wavelengths. Helium-silver (HeAg) 224 nm andneon-copper (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 (0.5 picometers),  making them candidates for use in fluorescencesuppressed Raman spectroscopy SONY VGP-BPS13B/Q Battery .

Chemical lasers

Chemical lasers 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 SONY VGP-BPS13B/Q Battery ,

fed by streams of gasses, have been developed and have some industrial applications. As examples, in the Hydrogen fluoride laser (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 in nitrogen trifluoride SONY VGP-BPS13/Q Battery .

Excimer lasers

Excimer lasers are a special sort of gas laser powered by an electric discharge in which the lasing medium is an excimer, or more precisely an exciplex in existing designs. These are molecules which can only exist with one atom in an excited electronic state SONY VGP-BPS13/Q Battery .

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 SONY VGP-BPS21A/B Battery .

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 wavelengths with major applicatons including semiconductor photolithography andLASIK eye surgery SONY VGP-BPS21/S Battery .

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 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 SONY VGP-BPS21B Battery .

Solid-state lasers

Solid-state lasers use a crystalline or glass rod which is "doped" with ions that provide the required energy states. For example, the first working laser was aruby laser, made from ruby (chromium-doped corundum) SONY VGP-BPS21A Battery .

The population inversion is actually maintained in the "dopant", such as chromium or neodymium. These materials are pumped optically using a shorter wavelength than the lasing wavelength, often from a flashtube or from another laser  SONY VGP-BPS21 Battery .

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 notreferred to as solid-state lasers  Sony VGP-BPS21A/B Battery .

The class of solid-state lasers would, however, properly include fiber lasers in which dopants in the glass lase under optical pumping. But in practice these are simply referred to as "fiber lasers" with "solid-state" reserved for lasers using a solid rod of such a materialSony VGP-BPS21/S Battery .

Neodymium is a common "dopant" in various solid-state laser crystals, including yttrium orthovanadate (Nd:YVO4),yttrium lithium fluoride (Nd:YLF) and yttrium aluminium garnet (Nd:YAG). All these lasers can produce high powers in the infrared spectrum at 1064 nm   Sony VGP-BPS21A Battery .

They are used for cutting, welding and marking of metals and other materials, and also in spectroscopy and for pumping dye lasers.

These lasers are also commonly frequency doubled, tripled or quadrupled, in so-called "diode pumped solid state" or DPSS lasersSony VGP-BPS21 Battery .

Under second, third, or fourth harmonic generation these produce 532 nm (green, visible), 355 nm and 266 nm (Ultraviolet|UV]]) beams. This is the technology behind the bright laser pointers particularly at green (532 nm) and other short visible wavelengthsSony Vaio PCG-5G2L Battery .

Ytterbium, holmium, thulium, and erbium 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  Sony Vaio PCG-5G3L Battery .

Extremely high powers in ultrashort pulses can be achieved with Yb:YAG. Holmium-doped YAG crystals emit at 2097 nm and form an efficient laser operating at infraredwavelengths strongly absorbed by water-bearing tissues  Sony Vaio PCG-5J1L Battery .

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  Sony Vaio PCG-5K2L Battery .

Titanium-doped sapphire (Ti:sapphire) produces a highly tunable infrared laser, commonly used for spectroscopy. It is also notable for use as a mode-locked laser producing ultrashort pulses of extremely high peak power.

Thermal limitations in solid-state lasers arise from unconverted pump power that manifests itself as heat Sony Vaio PCG-5J2L Battery .

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  Sony Vaio PCG-5K1L Battery .

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 lasers have been shown to produce up to kilowatt levels of power     Sony Vaio PCG-6S2L Battery .

Fiber lasers

Solid-state lasers or laser amplifiers where the light is guided due to the total internal reflection in a single mode optical fiber are instead called fiber lasers. Guiding of light allows extremely long gain regions providing good cooling conditions Sony Vaio PCG-6S3L Battery ;

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 and ytterbium ions are common active species in such lasers Sony Vaio PCG-6V1L Battery .

Quite often, the fiber laser is designed as a double-clad fiber. 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 Sony Vaio PCG-6W1L Battery .

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, or a stack of such lasers  Sony Vaio PCG-6W2L Battery .

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  Sony Vaio PCG-6W3L Battery .

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 centersSony Vaio PCG-7111L Battery .

Photonic crystal lasers

Photonic crystal lasers are lasers based on nano-structures that provide the mode confinement and the density of optical states (DOS) structure required for the feedback to take place . They are typical micrometre-sized and tunable on the bands of the photonic crystals Sony Vaio PCG-7112L Battery .

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 Sony Vaio PCG-7113L Battery .

Commercial laser diodes 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 printers and CD/DVD players. Laser diodes are also frequently used to optically pump other lasers with high efficiency  Sony Vaio PCG-7133L Battery .

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 Sony Vaio PCG-7Z2L Battery .

Vertical cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs) 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  Sony Vaio PCG-8Y1L Battery .

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. VECSELs are external-cavity VCSELs. Quantum cascade lasers are semiconductor lasers that have an active transition between energy sub-bands of an electron in a structure containing several quantum wells Sony Vaio PCG-8Y2L Battery .

The development of a silicon laser is important in the field of optical computing. Silicon is the material of choice for integrated circuits, and so electronic andsilicon photonic components (such as optical interconnects) could be fabricated on the same chipSony Vaio PCG-8Z1L Battery .

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  Sony Vaio PCG-8Z2L Battery ,

such as indium(III) phosphide or gallium(III) arsenide, materials which allow coherent light to be produced from silicon. These are called hybrid silicon laser. Another type is a Raman laser, which takes advantage of Raman scattering to produce a laser from materials such as silicon SONY VAIO VGN-FW31J Battery .

Dye lasers

Dye lasers 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)  SONY VAIO VGN-FW31E Battery.

Although these tunable lasers 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 use dye-doped polymers as laser media SONY VAIO VGN-FW31B Battery .

Free electron lasers

Free electron lasers, or FELs, generate coherent, high power radiation, that is widely tunable, currently ranging in wavelength from microwaves, through terahertz radiation and infrared, to the visible spectrum, to soft X-rays  SONY VAIO VGN-FW31M Battery .

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 SONY VAIO VGN-FW31Z Battery .

Exotic laser media

In September 2007, the BBC News reported that there was speculation about the possibility of using positronium annihilation to drive a very powerful gamma ray laser       SONY VAIO VGN-FW38M Battery .

Dr. David Cassidy of theUniversity of California, Riverside proposed that a single such laser could be used to ignite a nuclear fusion reaction, replacing the banks of hundreds of lasers currently employed in inertial confinement fusion experiments  SONY VAIO VGN-AW41JF Battery .

Space-based X-ray lasers pumped by a nuclear explosion have also been proposed as antimissile weapons. Such devices would be one-shot weapons.

When lasers were invented in 1960, they were called "a solution looking for a problem"  SONY VAIO VGN-AW41JF/H Battery .

Since then, they have become ubiquitous, finding utility in thousands of highly varied applications in every section of modern society, including consumer electronics, information technology, science, medicine,industry, law enforcement, entertainment, and the military  SONY VAIO VGN-AW41MF Battery .

The first use of lasers in the daily lives of the general population was the supermarket barcode scanner, introduced in 1974. The laserdisc player, introduced in 1978, was the first successful consumer product to include a laser but the compact disc player was the first laser-equipped device to become common, beginning in 1982 followed shortly by laser printers SONY VAIO VGN-AW41MF/H Battery .

Some other uses are:

  • Medicine: Bloodless surgery, laser healing, surgical treatment, kidney stone treatment, eye treatment, dentistry
  • Industry: Cutting, welding, material heat treatment, marking parts, non-contact measurement of parts SONY VAIO VGN-FW30B Battery
  • Military: Marking targets, guiding munitions, missile defence, electro-optical countermeasures (EOCM), alternative to radar, blinding troops.
  • Law enforcement: used for latent fingerprint detection in the forensic identification field SONY VAIO VGN-FW50B Battery
  • Research: Spectroscopy, laser ablation, laser annealing, laser scattering, laser interferometry, LIDAR, laser capture microdissection, fluorescence microscopy       SONY VAIO VGN-FW51B/W Battery
  • Product development/commercial: laser printers, optical discs (e.g. CDs and the like), barcode scanners, thermometers, laser pointers, holograms,bubblegrams.
  • Laser lighting displays: Laser light shows   SONY VAIO VGN-FW51MF Battery
  • Cosmetic skin treatments: acne treatment, cellulite and striae reduction, and hair removal.

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  SONY VAIO VGN-FW51MF/H Battery .

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  SONY VAIO VGN-FW51ZF Battery .

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  SONY VAIO VGN-FW51ZF/H Battery :

  • 1-5 mW – laser pointers
  • 5 mW – CD-ROM drive
  • 5–10 mW – DVD player or DVD-ROM drive
  • 100 mW – High-speed CD-RW burner   SONY VAIO VGN-FW52JB Battery
  • 250 mW – Consumer DVD-R burner
  • 1 W – green laser in current Holographic Versatile Disc prototype development
  • 1–20 W – output of the majority of commercially available solid-state lasers used for micro machining
  • 30–100 W – typical sealed CO2 surgical lasers
  • 100–3000 W – typical sealed CO2 lasers used in industrial laser cutting  SONY VAIO VGN-FW54FB Battery
  • 1 kW – Output power expected to be achieved by a prototype 1 cm diode laser bar
  • 100 kW – Claimed output of a CO2 laser being developed by Northrop Grumman for military (weapon) applications SONY VAIO VGN-FW70DB Battery

Examples of pulsed systems with high peak power:

  • 700 TW (700×1012 W) – National Ignition Facility, a 192-beam, 1.8-megajoule laser system adjoining a 10-meter-diameter target chamber  SONY VAIO VGN-FW71DB/W Battery .
  • 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  SONY VAIO VGN-FW72JGB Battery .

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  SONY VAIO VGN-FW73JGB Battery .

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.

Even the first laser was recognized as being potentially dangerous  SONY VAIO VGN-FW74FB Battery .

Theodore Maiman characterized the first laser as having a power of one "Gillette" as it could burn through one Gillette razor blade. 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 SONY VAIO VGN-FW81HS Battery .

At wavelengths which the cornea and the lens can focus well, the coherence and low divergence of laser light means that it can be focused by the eye into an extremely small spot on the retina, resulting in localized burning and permanent damage in seconds or even less time  SONY VAIO VGN-FW81NS Battery .

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 -vaio-vgn-fw81s-battery.html">SONY VAIO VGN-FW81S Battery .
  • 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 pointers.
  • 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 SONY VAIO VGN-FW82DS Battery .
  • 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   SONY VAIO VGN-FW82JS Battery .

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  SONY VAIO VGN-FW82XS Battery .

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 molecules very strongly absorb light in this part of the spectrum  SONY VAIO VGN-FW83DS Battery ,

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. The label "eye-safe" can be misleading, however, as it only applies to relatively low power continuous wave beams  SONY VAIO VGN-FW83JS Battery ;

any high power or Q-switched laser at these wavelengths can burn the cornea, causing severe eye damage.

Laser beams are famously employed as weapon systems in science fiction, but actual laser weapons are still in the experimental stage  SONY VAIO VGN-FW83XS Battery .

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 lasers SONY VAIO VGN-FW90HS Battery .

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  SONY VAIO VGN-FW90NS Battery .

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  SONY VAIO VGN-FW90S Battery .

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  SONY VAIO VGN-FW91NS Battery ,

and weapons designed to cause blindness have been banned by the Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons. 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  SONY VAIO VGN-FW91S Battery .

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   SONY VAIO VGN-FW92DS Battery .

On March 18, 2009 Northrop Grumman claimed that its engineers in Redondo Beach had successfully built and tested an electrically powered CO2 laser capable of producing a 100-kilowatt beam, powerful enough to destroy an airplane or a tank SONY VAIO VGN-FW92JS Battery .

According to Brian Strickland, manager for the United States Army'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  SONY VAIO VGN-FW93DS Battery .

However the source of such a large electrical power in a mobile application remains unclear  SONY VAIO VGN-FW93JS Battery .

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