Lasers – fantasy and reality


In 1960 Theodore H. Maiman succeeded in using ruby to generate laser light for the first time. At that time, without a specific idea about possible uses, his colleague Irnee J. D’Haenens commented on their mutual success with the words: “Now we have a solution that is looking for their problem.” In the past 50 years, however, laser technology has experienced rapid development and is used today in many areas of industry, medicine, and consumer electronics. Even artists are fascinated by the unique characteristics of the bundled light.

Lasers were perfect for the science fiction genre because of the futuristic character. Some people say that the creation of lasers was inspired by sci-fi literature. You can see some sort of laser guns called ‘ray guns’ in H. G. Wells‘ The War of the Worlds (1898) or  George Griffith’s future war novel The Lord of Labour (1911) and Arthur C. Clarke’s novel Earthlight (1855). You can see that the literature started first dreaming about a laser. After discovering a real laser the film industry used lasers for cool battle scenes. It started with the series ‘Buck Rogers’ then of course ‘Star Trek’ and the most known laser usage in ‘Star Wars’. Laser swords and guns become a cult for fans. Then numerous films and series followed e.g. Battle Star Galactica, Lost in Space, Tron, Babylon 5 etc. It is also the most important motive in sci-fi based video games. But not only sci-fi uses lasers. Some ‘James Bond’ films or the ‘MacGyver’ series used also lasers.  

Source: The ReDiscovered Future


Nowadays laser is used mostly in the industry together with CNC machines (CNC laser). Read more about the laser head for CNC.

However, lasers already have their place in history. In the 1980s the US President Ronald Reagan launched the initiative in a tense phase of the Cold War against the Soviet Union to build a defensive shield against intercontinental ballistic missiles. An alternative name of the program is Star Wars – based on the science fiction film.

Today, lasers are used for tracking and guiding missiles, destroying optical sensors because as a real weapon they cannot be used yet. There are prototypes of such weapons, but it is still sci-fi. China claims that it has created a sort of laser gun this year that looks like an assault gun and weights 3 kg. They are also used in science to generate extremely high energies and thus for example temperatures and pressures as they exist in nuclear fusion on the Sun (only for a very short time). The communication technology uses them for optical fibers and laser message systems. In Geodesy they are used as extremely precise rangefinders.

The laser is almost a commodity. Everyone had a laser pointer in the hands, listened to a CD player or used a laser printer or scanner. In the developed countries there are probably only a few households left today which the laser technology is not used. This is very important because with the laser diodes a laser source is available, which has high efficiency and is very durable. By a combination of the small compact semiconductor diodes extremely high laser powers can be achieved. Because of the big quantities are the cost of these lasers extraordinarily low. The usage is limitless and none can predict how it will develop.  

Source: U.S. Navy