Lasers have always been a staple of spy movies and sci movies like James Bond and Star Wars. Thankfully, due to modern computer innovations lasers have become a reality. And today lasers are used in everything from police speed guns to night vision to cell phone communications to military guided missiles and self driving cars. So let’s look at the technology behind this laser that is driving the future.
What is an IR Laser?
IR lasers operate in the infrared (IR) spectrum of light. For those of you who haven’t taken a science class in over 20 years, IR light is just another form of light on the electromagnetic spectrum. Operating at a frequency between 750 nm to 1 mm, IR light has a higher frequency than microwaves but is under the visible light spectrum therefore humans can’t see this with their normal eye.
How Does it Work?
Despite IR lasers seeming simple, they are very complex to understand. In order to project a Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation (aka Laser), electricity is pumped around a tube which pumps energy into a crystal. Atoms in the crystal absorb the photons of energy and quickly release this energy in the process called spontaneous emission. The photons zooming around the tube at the speed of light excite other atoms causing a chain reaction causing an amplification of the light. Then there is the tiny hole that lets some of these photons escape while other photons are bounced back. And this light that comes out is what we call a laser.
Dangers of IR Lasers
While IR lasers are a great innovation in the world of modern technology there are certainly some dangers to at least be aware of so that you don’t end up seriously injuring yourself. Due to the fact that humans cannot see IR light, humans tend not to react to it when it is shown to our eyes, and hence can cause serious damage to them. And while we can feel IR waves in the form of heat we all know if you are exposed to something too hot you can be seriously burned. Thankfully, IR lasers offer more benefit than they do negative effects.
IR lasers have taken over leading the technological revolution over the past 30 years. IR lasers and sensors are even being used to develop autonomous vehicles that will revolutionize the transportation industry. Who knew that a spectrum of light that was traditionally used to provide heat to homes could be used in so many applications.