LASER stands for “light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation.” Though this mouthful may sound confusing, it reveals something important about lasers—we must produce lasers with other materials. There are dozens of ways scientists craft lasers, but these are the main types of lasers everyone should know.
Gas lasers are the product of a particular combination of gas and electricity. These lasers begin with a gas-filled glass tube typically containing carbon dioxide or helium neon. When technicians discharge an electrical current through the gaseous mix, it produces the light, which functions as a laser. Gas lasers are unique because they often offer high beam quality and long coherence lengths. This means they are quite dependable and can operate at more considerable distances. People often use gas lasers in laser cutting and engraving operations as well as in the military.
As the name implies, solid-state lasers use physical substances in the solid state to produce light beams. While gas moves quickly and freely, solid particles are firm. Scientists distribute lasing material throughout the solid, which creates the laser-making capacity. The solid material must be glass or crystalline so the matrix can bend light in a desirable way.
Dye lasers use the power of liquids to focus light. The dye acts as a lasing material suspended in a liquid solution instead of a separate addition to a solid matrix. Dye lasers can operate within more extensive ranges than gas and solid-state lasers, offering technicians the tunability they lack with other instruments.
Though these are the main types of lasers everyone should know, the world of lasers extends far beyond these into semiconductor, metal vapor, and fiber lasers. Dig deeper into the world of lasers and find out how scientists use each laser type in the real world.
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