An Introduction

It is basically a device that can stimulate atoms or electrons to  emit electromagnetic radiation of a specific wavelength and then amplify it producing a narrow spectrum of light. Laser is different from other lights because the light which the laser device emits has identical frequencies and wavelengths in it as a result a narrow tight beam of light is produced.

Laser Physics

The branch of optical physics that deals with the theory and application of lasers is called laser physics. This branch of physics lays the foundation of quantum electronics. 

 

What Are Lasers?

The word laser is an acronym and can be expanded as "light amplification by stimulating the emission of radiation."The laser beams have a property similar to that of light waves emitted all at once. They are coherent, and usually of one wavelength (or colour).

There are many types of lasers, varying from giant lasers that emit high energy pulses of radiation like X-rays to a small device that are used in semiconductor chips to produce infrared lights.

Further, a laser is a device that increases the intensity of light by focusing in a particular direction.

Lasers not only increase the intensity of light but also generate light. Lasers emit light by stimulated emission of radiation, which increases the intensity of radiation. Some lasers produce visible light, and some produce ultraviolet or infrared rays.

Lasers are different from conventional light sources. Lasers have some properties which are not found in traditional light sources like sun, electric bulb, and incandescent lamp.

It also deals with the physics of laser beam propagation, particularly that of Gaussian beams, laser applications, nonlinear and quantum optics.


Further, a laser is a device that increases the intensity of light by focusing in a particular direction.

Lasers not only increase the intensity of light but also generate light. Lasers emit light by stimulated emission of radiation, which increases the intensity of radiation. Some lasers produce visible light, and some produce ultraviolet or infrared rays.

Lasers are different from conventional light sources. Lasers have some properties which are not found in traditional light sources like sun, electric bulb, and incandescent lamp.


Characteristics of Lasers

You can find a number of characteristics of laser light over ordinary light source:

  • Coherence

  • Directionality

  • Monochromatic

  • High intensity

i. Coherence

Visible light receives its emission from excited electrons (electrons of the higher energy level) are moved down to the lower energy level (ground state).

 

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ii. Directionality

In conventional light sources like lamps, torchlights, electric bulbs, etc, photons move at random points. As such, these sources scatter light in all possible directions. The lasers emit light in a particular focused direction.

 

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iii. Monochromatic

Monochromatic light means a light beam which contains a single wavelength. Photons that originate from natural light sources contain a range of energies, wavelengths, and colors. 

The Properties of Laser Similar to That of Monochromatic Light Are

1. Frequency

2.Wavelength

3. Color

iv. High Intensity

Wave intensity is the energy flowing through a unit normal area per unit time. Light from an ordinary source spreads out in all directions. The light of a laser is focused in a particular direction.


How Does a Laser Work?

You can take a normal laser (like a ruby laser) to see the action that is done. 

Check out the image below; the device contains all the components required to make a laser function properly. The ruby laser has a medium in the form of a ruby crystal, a set of mirrors on either end (one of which is more transparent as compared to the other) and a flash tube stimulant. When current is passed through the ruby crystal  electrons are excited and then the excited electrons excite more electrons and the collective electrons all reach the high energy state. When the electron ultimately comes to the ground state energy they emit photons which are collected to form a strong beam of light called a laser.


Here's How the Process Will Work Here:


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i. First, an electric current is supplied to turn the flash lamp on and off, which excites the electrons of the ruby crystals.

ii. These excited electrons of the high energy state return to the ground state, thereby emitting a photon of light by spontaneous emission.

iii. These photons move in the medium, bouncing off the mirrors and exciting other electrons into the high energy states. This process emits more photons by stimulating emission. 

Since now you have more number of excited electrons than the ground electrons, so it creates a population inversion.

iv. The photons keep bouncing back and forth between the two mirrors of the medium, but one of the mirrors is a little less reflective and lets some photons through it.

v. Photons that emerge from the mirror are concentrated as a powerful beam of laser light.


Laser Types and Uses

There are many types of lasers, and they are categorized based on the type of medium at which they are used. This can be solid, liquid, gas, or semiconductor.

A. Solid-State Lasers

These lasers are made up of solid media, like ruby or crystalline. The lasers have a flash tube wrapped around it to excite the electrons.

These types of lasers are typically used for target destination systems by military applications and also to drill holes in metals.

 

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B. Gas Lasers

These types of lasers are made out of helium or helium-neon. They are used to produce characteristic red laser light. 

These lasers are powerful and efficient and are used for industrial cutting and welding applications.

 

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C. Liquid Dye Lasers

The liquid dye lasers use liquid dyes like rhodamine in a liquid solution as their medium. In these lasers, the electrons are excited either by an arc lamp, flash lamp, or another laser.

Liquid dye lasers can produce a broader band of light frequencies as compared to solid-state or liquid lasers and are used in a variety of applications.

 

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D. Semiconductor Lasers

These types of lasers are very cheap to produce and hence found in several electronic devices like laser printers and barcode scanners.

These are also called diode lasers, as they use LEDs to generate light in a monochromatic pattern.

 

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Laser Type and Wavelength (nm)

Laser Type

Wavelength (nm)

Argon fluoride (UV)

193

Krypton fluoride (UV)

248

Xenon chloride (UV)

308

Nitrogen (UV)

337

Argon (blue)

488

Argon (green)

514

Helium-neon (green)

543

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Difference Between a Flashlight and Laser.

The light of a laser contains only one wavelength (one specific color). Laser lights are directional. The laser generates a very high energetic beam, whereas a flashlight produces light that is diffuse.


Laser lights are coherent and stay focused even for vast distances.

2. What Are the Uses of Lasers in Medicine?

These days, lasers have worked out in a number of applications in the field of the medical facility. The laser beams are very small and precise, and so it is used for health care professionals to treat tissue without injuring the surrounding area safely.

Lasers are often used to:

  • For the treatment of varicose veins.

  • To improve vision during the surgery of eye on the cornea

  • To repair the detached retina of the eye.

  • To remove the prostate.

  • To remove kidney stones.

  • To remove tumors.

3. What Makes Laser Light So Different?

Lasers occur in a single color and are a coherent beam. Lasers focus on high energy monochromatic light in a direction.

4. How Do You Diffuse a Laser Beam?

To diffuse the beam, it should be passed through a ground glass diffuser or an opal glass diffuser. A laser can also be diffused when bounced off a white-painted surface. This causes the beam to scatter over a wide range of directions.

5. What are the uses of lasers?

Lasers have become the main component of many devices that we use daily. In our day-to-day use, we use it in DVD players, barcode scanners. They are used in specific fields like surgery and manufacturing industries. The uses are listed as follows:

  • Used in ophthalmic surgical procedures like LASIK to repair holes in the retina and other functions, also used to remove tumours, prostate and gall bladder and kidney stones 

  • In industry it is the commonly used device for cutting and drilling

  • Laser is used in spectroscopy and holographic imaging.

6. What are the differences Between a Flashlight and a Laser?

Ordinary flashlight has electromagnetic waves of different wavelengths but the laser has the light of only one wavelength as a result while flashlight produces a diffused light laser produces a tight light beam of stronger intensity. Laser lights are focussed and unidirectional and hence can travel long distances but flashlights are non directional and diffused hence cannot cover long distances. Laser gives a coherent amplified light but in a flashlight, there is no such amplification and lights of different wavelengths and frequencies exist together. Laser is suitable for a light of strong intensity but a narrow beam or point light whereas flashlights will give the light of less intensity but covers a wider area.

7. How do lasers work?

The theory behind the working of lasers is quite different from ordinary light. The working can be described in the following steps:

  • An electric current is used to excite the electrons of the coloured crystals.

  • When the excited electrons return to the ground state energy they emit their extra energy in the form of photons of light.

  • The photons move randomly and spontaneously exciting other electrons. These excited electrons in high energy states then emit more photons. 

  • Collection of Photons gets  concentrated to a powerful beam of high intensity and gives an amplified beam of light referred to as laser.

8. What are the different types of Lasers?

The different types of lasers can be classified under the following heads:

  • Solid-State Lasers:  As the name suggests these lasers use solid media like crystals mainly, and a flash tube surrounding the crystal to excite the electrons.

  • Gas Lasers: Use gases like helium or helium-neon to produce a specific coloured light. 

  • Liquid Dye Lasers: The name itself suggests the use of liquid dye as the medium. An arc lamp is used to emit electrons from the liquid dye. Rhodamine in a liquid solution is commonly used as the medium. 

  • Semiconductor Lasers: Use LEDs to emit light.

9. What are the characteristic properties of lasers?

Lasers are quite different from ordinary lights because of the following properties:

  • Coherence: The light consists of coordinated waves of the same wavelength and frequency. Laser has both temporal and spatial coherence. The laser light is the one in which electron transition takes place in a particular specific time thereby all the photons emitted are of the same wavelength and frequency.

  • Directionality: Laser lights have very little divergence and they maintain a direction. A narrow beam of high-intensity light in a specific direction is its property.

  • Monochromatic: Lasers are monochromatic and consist of light of one colour. 

  • Intensity: Laser lights have a very strong intensity.

  • Brightness: The laser lights have more brightness than ordinary lights.

  • Diffusibility: Laser lights are very less divergent in nature and hence they do not diffuse much and hence they can travel long distances also.

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