Exciting Applications of Laser Technology

Exciting Applications of Laser Technology

Exciting Applications of Laser Technology
Image Credits: All About Vision

LASER is a device that amplifies the intensity of the light to produce highly-directional light. Some lasers generate visible light while others produce ultraviolet or infrared rays. The light emitted by a laser has small bandwidth and is unidirectional. That’s the reason why laser lights are extremely powerful. The intensity of lasers allows for a wide array of possible applications. Ranging from simple hair removal surgery to weapon guidance systems, laser technology is involved in a number of exciting applications.

Military Drone Defense

Military Drone Defense - Laser Technology

Laser technology in military applications may seem something straight out of a movie. In the past few months, the US Marine Corps has been testing its Compact Laser Weapons System (CLaWS). Simply put, CLaWS is a vehicle-mounted system designed to destroy enemy drones. Compared to traditional firepower, this laser weapon is a cost-effective deterrent for drones. At the same time, CLaWS makes it difficult to target ground troops.

CLaWS may see a lot of use in the Middle East as tensions escalate in the region. Turkish forces are also using weaponized lasers to show their military prowess. They became the first country to destroy a vehicle in combat solely by using a ground-based laser system. In August 2019, Turkey deployed their laser weaponry to attack and destroy an armed UAE drone circling over the Libyan district, Misurata.

Holographic Data Storage

Holographic Data Storage - Laser Technology

Lasers have been used for data storage since the 1980s, notably in the form of compact discs. However, this technology has stark limitations when it comes to the amount of data that can be stored. Similarly, the speed at which data can be transferred to and from the storage medium is also a concern. In order to overcome these issues, scientists are looking to use a new technique (holographic data storage) to improve the storage space of optical devices.

These special devices would be able to hold masses of information in the form of three-dimensional holograms. Not only will it increase the amount of data that can be stored, but it is also more reliable than traditional methods. However, holographic storage is still in its infancy and only exists as a prototype. You may soon be able to get your hands on the latest holographic movies, though.

Laser Cooling

Laser Cooling - Laser Technology

The general perception is that laser technology is used to make objects hot. As counterintuitive as it may sound, lasers are also good at cooling things down quickly.

Particles in a gas dart around due to the abundance of energy. As the gas is cooled down, the particles begin to lose energy and slow down. In simple terms, slowing down atoms causes temperatures to drop. This is the principle on which laser cooling works.  

When an atom is moving towards a laser, it absorbs photons from the beam and begins to slow down. As it slows down, the decelerating particle will lose some of its energy and thus begin to drop in temperature. According to an estimate, nearly 20,000 photons can bring the momentum of a sodium atom to zero. This may seem difficult to achieve, but pioneering physicist Steven Chu has stated that, with the right level of tuning, lasers can inhibit around ten million absorptions every second. With laser cooling, atoms could be brought to a near-halt in milliseconds.

Manipulating Rodents

Manipulating Rodents

Scientists have been recently working on altering rodent behavior using laser technology.  As crazy as may sound, laser technology has allowed scientists to reverse alcoholism in rats. A team of experts from Scripps Research Medical Institute managed to reduce alcohol dependence in rats. They implanted fiber-optics into the rats’ brains and targeted specific neurons. This created a ‘behavior flip switch’ in the animals.

Two years before this, researchers from Yale University developed a similar technique to activate predatory instincts in mice. They were able to stimulate aggressive behavior by shining blue light at the creatures’ temporal lobes.

Contact Lenses

Contact Lenses

While we are still a long way from developing Superman’s laser vision, scientists have developed contact lenses that emit laser light.

An ultrathin film is embedded into the contact lens that shines laser light using a nano-watt of power. So far, these contact lenses have been tested on cows successfully. The team behind these contact lenses told reporters that this sort of laser technology has the potential to be used as wearable security tags. However, much more refinement is needed before these lenses are ready to be used for practical purposes.

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