Saturday, June 28, 2008

The future of lasers

A laser, acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation, emits a sharp light source. We find lasers now everywhere from optical storage, printers (2D printers), to cut & print in metal; they can be pretty dangerous so have to be handled carefully! The light is emitted in a narrow, low-divergence beam, with a narrow wavelength spectrum (usually monochromatic).

Jean Michel Jarre playing the laser harp, harp designed by Bernard Szajner in 1980.

This invention by Theodore Maiman in 1960 allows many applications. Designers integrate it widely, and now it become very common and unimpressive to use a laser as a mean of interaction. The laser has more interestingly leaded to some copy-cat applications. Getting the sense that a sharp light can easily be distinguished within the wavelength spectrum, designers use it as a tracking device. In the military, sophisticated lasers are used for range finding. In medicine for internal surgery. You can find sophisticated Green Laser Pointer through specialized companies. The usual 15mW laser is the one used to accompany a slide presentation, but lasers can remain portable while keeping intense power up to 500mW (thanks to heat sinking! ).

Wikipedia offers an extensive explanation on the differences between the continuous wave operation and the pulsed operation of a laser, thus offering quite a different use for the laser. Here we are working with visible wavelength, but creative applications using invisible wavelength are quite unexplored and are endless! As part of my PhD general exams, I am currently researching on how to use electro magnetic field and modulated light in background signals for adding context or helping localization in smart systems. More about this soon!

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