Category Archives: laser

World’s Biggesterest laser – pew pew pew

There are some things in the world that never get old. Zombies. Pirates. Ninja. Sharks. Dinosaurs. All these things we can count on to be perpetually cool. Top of the list for me, however, (and you already know this if you hang around the Blahg or me very much) is the topic of lasers. Sure, sure, sure – the previous things are great. But put sharks together with lasers and you far exceed the awesomesauce held by the mere category of sharks. Everyone likes the idea of pirates versus ninja. Suppose, however, you got a pirate and a ninja fighting on top of a laser beam? Only pirates and ninja could pull off a fight carried on completely on a beam of focused light, and they are way more fantastic for doing so. I think, by this point, that you get my point.

So with lasers consuming the position as awesomerest of awesome everything, just what could I want to talk about to impress even the laser fan? Well, how about the most powerful laser EVAR? Could this thing lift a squirrel into orbit? I don’t know. But it is a shit-ton of power:

Scientists working at the National Ignition Facility of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, have built the most powerful laser in the world, capable of simulating the energy force of a hydrogen bomb and the sun itself.

“The system already has produced 25 times more energy than any other laser system,” said NIF Director Ed Moses.

These scientists worked more than a decade to come to this. They generate this power by combining 192 laser beams. And the whole facility is contained within a ten-story building that’s roughly the size of three football fields (American football, for my dear foreign readers). So just how much is 25 time more energy than any other laser, exactly?

NIF’s 192 laser beams, housed in a ten-story building the size of three football fields, travel a long path, about 1,000 feet, from their birth at one of the two master oscillators to the center of the target chamber. As the beams move through NIF’s amplifiers, their energy increases exponentially. From beginning to end, the beams’ total energy grows from one-billionth of a joule (a joule is the energy needed to lift a small apple one meter against the Earth’s gravity) to four million joules, a factor of more than a quadrillion – and it all happens in less than 25 billionths of a second.

Yep – fully focused and powered up, this laser could lift 4 million apples one meter off the ground. Hmmmm. That doesn’t sound nearly as cool as it should. Let’s try again – this laser could lift 1 apple 4 million meters off the ground! Might need more exclamation points, but I think you get the idea. And that estimate of the value of a joule isn’t quite accurate, but it does simplify it and still leave us close enough.

Of course, that assumes the laser wouldn’t instantly vaporize the apple. But maybe if it’s a zombie dinosaur apple, it will survive the trip.

[tags]Lasers, 1.21 Gigawatts!, Apples, Zombies, Ninja, Pirates, Dinosaurs, I’m too fascinated by memes[/tags]

Cool new type of laser?

Since we haven’t covered any really cool laser news in a while, it’s time to throw out our shark-powered story-hounds (and yes, I recognize the incongruity of that analogy) and see what pops up.

Looks here like there is a story out on a new type of laser. While studying laser generation from a device called a quantum cascade laser, scientists noticed that a secondary laser with some unusual properties was generated.

ScienceDaily (Dec. 22, 2008) — A Princeton-led team of researchers has discovered an entirely new mechanism for making common electronic materials emit laser beams. The finding could lead to lasers that operate more efficiently and at higher temperatures than existing devices, and find applications in environmental monitoring and medical diagnostics.

In particular, this new type of laser apparently requires less energy to produce than a traditional laser. While the story in question makes no mention of strapping these frikkin’ lasers to frikkin’ sharks’ heads, I suspect a lower power draw would come in quite handy in any world take-over attempts based on such a premise. Assuming the scientists in question can figure out how to create this secondary laser without the primary laser still being there, of course.

The new laser phenomenon has some interesting features. For instance, in a conventional laser relying on low momentum electrons, electrons often reabsorb the emitted photons, and this reduces overall efficiency. In the new type of laser, however, this absorption is reduced by 90%, said Franz. This could potentially allow the device to run at lower currents, and also makes it less vulnerable to temperature changes. “It should let us dramatically improve laser performance,” he said.

The device used in the study does not fully attain this level of performance, because the conventional, low-efficiency laser mechanism dominates. To take full advantage of the new discovery, therefore, the conventional mechanism would need to be turned off. The researchers have started to work on methods to achieve this outcome, said Franz.

So work is still underway. And has been for a while, in fact. Word from the brains behind this work is they actually discovered this effect sometime last year, but have been working on perfecting or improving it since then. My current suspicions are if this doesn’t end up in shark-based warfare, it will be part of the coming robot uprising. And I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords (unless the zombies take over first).

[tags]Lasers, Frikkin’ sharks, Throw me a bone, Robots, Quantum something I don’t understand, Science Daily[/tags]

Start slicing stuff – no sharks included

So long, we have failed to talk lasers here on the Blahg.  If you’ve been around long, you know it’s one of our favorite topics.  But what is happening in the laser world?  What goes on when the Blahg doesn’t mention lasers?  If someone puts out news on a laser, and the Blahg doesn’t cover it, does it deserve to be mounted on the head of a friggin’ shark?  Well yes.  Yes it does.  Every laser deserves a shark of its own.

That out of the way, what good news to we have?  Well, how about a guide to building your own laser cutter?  Would you be interested in getting a knife made of focused light?  And what if it was less than $50?

This project demonstrates a simple hack to create a large format laser cutter utilizing all the scrap electronics you may have lying around. If you have a broken scanner or two, the cost can be just about 30 dollars for the entire project.

I totally need to build one of these, even if it isn’t actually a hand-held laser knife.  It sounds cool enough that it could go in to The Best of Instructables book, although it looks like it didn’t make the first volume.  Maybe volume 2?

So we’ll try to get you up date on the coolest or most useless new laser news in the coming days.  And as always, we’ll watch for news of advances on the friggin’ shark front.

[tags]lasers, laser, shark, Instructables, Laser knife[/tags]

Record-setting high-intensity laser beam

You’ve got your laser.  You’ve got your high intensity.  You’ve got your awesome name – HERCULES.  What missing?

If you could hold a giant magnifying glass in space and focus all the sunlight shining toward Earth onto one grain of sand, that concentrated ray would approach the intensity of a new laser beam made in a University of Michigan laboratory.

That’s the instantaneous intensity we can produce,” said Karl Krushelnick, a physics and engineering professor. “I don’t know of another place in the universe that would have this intensity of light. We believe this is a record.”

. . .

The record-setting beam measures 20 billion trillion watts per square centimeter. It contains 300 terawatts of power. That’s 300 times the capacity of the entire U.S. electricity grid. The laser beam’s power is concentrated to a 1.3-micron speck about 100th the diameter of a human hair. A human hair is about 100 microns wide.

Sadly, no mention is made of strapping these suckers to the frikkin’ heads of any frikkin’ sharks.  Nor is there any word on the available ramp-up possible with a whole mess of these (say, perhaps, an ocean full of frikkin’ sharks, with, well, you know) and harnessing the power of a Dyson sphere.  But some mad-genius will make it happen some day, I am certain (sans popcorn, most likely).

A paper on this research, “Ultra-high intensity 300-TW laser at 0.1 Hz repetition rate,” is published online in the journal Optics Express. The full text is available at http://www.opticsinfobase.org/abstract.cfm?URI=oe-16-3-2109. Yanovsky and Krushelnick are authors of the paper.

Yup – 300 Terra-Watts.  Make’s ol’ Doc Brown’s Flux Capacitor look pretty miserly with the power, doesn’t it?

[tags]HERCULES, Laser, Frikkin’ sharks, 300 Terra-watts, 1.21 Giga-watts[/tags]

Lifting squirrels

From the xkcd blag (I’m a Blahgger, he’s a blagger – we just don’t want to fit in with those filthy bloggers, I guess) comes this fascinating look at using lasers to lift squirrels in to space.photon_squirrel.png Amazingly enough, without taking advantage of reflection, the method described uses the Doc Brown approved 1.21 gigawatts of energy to lift a squirrel. Using a sufficiently focused beam of light along with properly placed lasters, that power requirement can be cut a few orders of magnitude, down around 1 megawatt. dyson_sphere_diagram.jpgThis is a far less interesting number, but much more economically feasible. Understand I’m all for using gross amounts of power to lift squirrels in to outerspace, but I realize the country might not share my willingness to drain from the entire power grid for such a useful pursuit.

Nicely, the blag post transcends merely levitating squirrels, advancing to such necessary topics as generating lasers from the sun, tying them together via Dyson sphere manipulation to create a death ray, and sending a message to our celestial neighbors.

Why settle for interstellar communication when you can have interstellar war? And we could modulate the beam to carry a message — in this case, “FUCK YOU GUYS!”

And ultimately, isn’t that the real purpose of advancing laser studies? Inter-stellar war and Parisian-level offense directed at other galactic entities? Well, that and frikkin’ shark/laser hybrids.

[tags]xkcd, blag, lasers, 1.21 gigawatts, squirrels, frikkin’ shark, Dyson sphere, death[/tags]