Types of Lasers

Gas Lasers | Free electron lasers | Solid State Lasers | Dye Lasers | Exotic Laser Media

A laser for any occasion

The laser was created and then they figured out what to do with it.

Gas Lasers

Gas lasers using many gases have been built and used for many purposes.

The helium-neon laser (HeNe) emits at a variety of wavelengths and units operating at 633 nm are very common in education because of its low cost.

Carbon dioxide lasers can emit hundreds of kilowatts[14] at 9.6 μm and 10.6 μm, and are often used in industry for cutting and welding. The efficiency of a CO2 laser is over 10%.

Argon-ion lasers emit light in the range 351-528.7 nm. Depending on the optics and the laser tube a different number of lines is usable but 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 producing UV Light at 337.1 nm.[15]

Metal ion lasers are gas lasers that generate deep ultraviolet wavelengths. Helium-silver (HeAg) 224 nm and neon-copper (NeCu) 248 nm are two examples. These lasers have particularly narrow oscillation linewidths of less than 3 GHz (0.5 picometers),[16] making them candidates for use in fluorescence suppressed Raman spectroscopy.

Chemical lasers

Chemical lasers are powered by a chemical reaction, and can achieve high powers in continuous operation. For example, 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. They were invented by George C. Pimentel.

Excimer lasers

Excimer lasers are powered by a chemical reaction involving an excited dimer, or excimer, which is a short-lived dimeric or heterodimeric molecule formed from two species (atoms), at least one of which is in an excited electronic state. They typically produce ultraviolet light, and are used in semiconductor photolithography and in LASIK eye surgery. Commonly used excimer molecules include F2 (fluorine, emitting at 157 nm), and noble gas compounds (ArF [193 nm], KrCl [222 nm], KrF [248 nm], XeCl [308 nm], and XeF [351 nm]).[17]

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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. 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.

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Solid State Lasers

Solid-state laser materials are commonly made by "doping" a crystalline solid host with ions that provide the required energy states. For example, the first working laser was a ruby laser, made from ruby (chromium-doped corundum). The population inversion is actually maintained in the "dopant", such as chromium or neodymium. Formally, the class of solid-state lasers includes also fiber laser, as the active medium (fiber) is in the solid state. Practically, in the scientific literature, solid-state laser usually means a laser with bulk active medium, while wave-guide lasers are caller fiber lasers.

"Semiconductor lasers" are also solid-state lasers, but in the customary laser terminology, "solid-state laser" excludes semiconductor lasers, which have their own name.

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. 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 to produce 532 nm (green, visible), 355 nm (UV) and 266 nm (UV) light when those wavelengths are needed.

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. 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 infrared 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-doped sapphire (Ti:sapphire) produces a highly tunable infrared laser, commonly used for spectroscopy as well as the most common ultrashort pulse laser.

Thermal limitations in solid-state lasers arise from unconverted pump power that manifests itself as heat and phonon energy. 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. The thermal limitations in this laser type are mitigated by utilizing 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.[18]

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Dye Lasers

Dye lasers use an organic dye as the gain medium. The wide gain spectrum of available dyes allows these lasers to be highly tunable, or to produce very short-duration pulses (on the order of a few femtoseconds)

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.[20] Dr. David Cassidy of the University of California, Riverside proposed that a single such laser could be used to ignite a nuclear fusion reaction, replacing the hundreds of lasers used in typical inertial confinement fusion experiments.[20] Space-based X-ray lasers pumped by a nuclear explosion have also been proposed as antimissile weapons.[21][22] Such devices would be one-shot weapons.


Notes and references

14. "Air Force Research Lab's high power CO2 laser". Defense Tech Briefs.
15. Csele, Mark (2004). "The TEA Nitrogen Gas Laser". Homebuilt Lasers Page. Retrieved on 2007-09-15.
16. "Deep UV Lasers" (PDF). Photon Systems, Covina, Calif. Retrieved on 2007-05-27.
17. Schuocker, D. (1998). Handbook of the Eurolaser Academy. Springer. ISBN 0412819104.
18. C. Stewen, M. Larionov, and A. Giesen, Yb:YAG thin disk laser with 1 kW output power, in OSA Trends in Optics and Photonics, Advanced Solid-State Lasers, H. Injeyan, U. Keller, and C. Marshall, ed. (Optical Society of America, Washington, DC., 2000) pp. 35-41.
19. "Picolight ships first 4-Gbit/s 1310-nm VCSEL transceivers", Laser Focus World, Dec. 9, 2005, accessed 27 May 2006
20. a b Fildes, Jonathan (2007-09-12). "Mirror particles form new matter". BBC News. Retrieved on 2008-05-22.
21. Hecht, Jeff (May 2008). "The history of the x-ray laser". Optics and Photonics News (Optical Society of America) 19 (5): 26-33.
22. Robinson, Clarence A. (1981). "Advance made on high-energy laser". Aviation Week & Space Technology (23 February 1981): 25-27.

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               Laser Types information is from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laser#History
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