Diamond Laser Breakthrough
Researchers have developed a diamond laser that, at 380 watts, is 20 times more powerful than any other of its kind.
I never heard of a diamond laser before. It kinda reminds me of those early Reese’s peanut butter cup commercials (Two great tastes that taste great together).
So how did these two crazy kids get together? Could they really have a future together?
The diamonds used for these lasers are not dug out of the ground. They are grown synthetically in a lab using a process called chemical vapor deposition (CVD). This lays down the carbon atoms in the proper arrangement layer by layer on top of a diamond substrate. This process is critical to the superior optical quality of these diamonds compared to the previous ones, grown or dug up, and used in weaker earlier versions of these types of lasers.
The super high quality of these diamonds though, just add to the advantageous properties that already make diamonds a potentially useful lasing medium. For one, they are among the most transparent objects known, if not THE most transparent. This is because the electron orbitals around the carbon atoms are filled to capacity, meaning that it’s extra difficult for them to absorb photons which would decrease transparency. This means that diamonds are capable of producing laser light in a wide range of wavelengths, opening a broad range of applications that other lasers are less suited for. For example, solid state lasers can produce impressively powerful laser beams, well into the kilowatt range. Yet they can only do this in a far more restricted range of wavelengths.
Not only can diamond lasers produce more wavelengths of light, they can produce a certain wavelength that is immensely useful in and of itself. I’m referring to light in the 1240 nano-meter range. This wavelength interferes with our atmosphere much less than other wavelengths. It is also not as easily absorbed by the human retina. You certainly wouldn’t want to stare at such light for more than a moment but at least it wouldn’t immediately bore a hole straight through your eyeball.
Solid state lasers are also limited by the relatively small thermal load they can handle. When things get too hot, they get very cranky. Diamonds however are incredibly adept at dissipating the heat that ever-increasing power demands.
Diamond lasers then have the potential for a host of applications that no other laser may be able to do as well.
- Laser Ranging
- Space communications
- Toxic or explosive gas detection at a distance
- Tracking and removal of space junk
- and of course…weapons
This is a fascinating development in laser technology which makes 2015, the 50th anniversary of the invention of the first laser, even more special.
I’ll keep tracking the progress of this new tech and continue hoping it will help fulfill one of my childhood geeky dreams…a practical and powerful handheld laser/blaster/phaser or whatever we ultimately call it.
Image Credit: Marco Nero