Laser - A Solution Waiting for a Problem
No one knew what laser would be used for when it was discovered. "A solution waiting for a problem," is a famous saying from the early days of laser. Sometimes it takes quite a long time before a discovery can be used in a tangible way. Yes, it might take 30 years or more before someone realizes that a discovery is really important. Today, laser is used in several areas, such as research, communication, industry, medicine, and environmental care.
Industrial Applications of Laser
Today, laser can be found in a broad range of applications within industry, where it can be used for such things as pointing and measuring. In the manufacturing industry, laser is used to measure the ball cylindricity in bearings by observing the dispersion of a laser beam when reflected on the ball.
Yet another example is to measure the shadow of a steel band with the help of a laser light to find out the thickness of the band.
Within the pulp mill industry the concentration of lye is measured by observing how the laser beam refracts in it.
Laser also works as a spirit level and can be used to indicate a flat surface by just sweeping the laser beam along the surface. This is, for instance, used when making walls at building sites. In the mining industry, laser is used to point out the drilling direction.
Laser technologies have also been used within environmental areas. One example is the ability to determine from a distance the environmental toxins in a column of smoke. Other examples are being able to predict and measure the existence of photochemical smog and ozone, both at ground level where it isn't wanted and in the upper layers of the atmosphere where it is needed. Laser is also used to supervise wastewater purification.
Laser works as a light source
in all fiber optics in use. It has greater bandwidth
(potentially 100,000 times greater) than an ordinary
It is insensitive to interference from external electrical and magnetic fields. Crosstalk (hearing someone else's phone call) is of rare occurrence.
Fiber optics is used increasingly often in data and telecommunications around the world.
Laser has become one
of the most important tools to researchers within
physics, chemistry, biology and medicine throughout the
world and is used to:
- register ultra fast chemical processes such as the bonding between atoms to form molecules;
- study the process when cells split, or a virus enters into a cell;
- manipulate molecules down to extremely low temperatures;
- transfer as much energy as possible to different materials in a short time to obtain different types of emissions.
The full meaning of this research won't find its answer today but will be shown in the future.
Laser is used in medicine to improve precision work like surgery. Brain surgery is an example of precision surgery that calls for the surgeon to reach the intended area precisely. To make sure of this, lasers are used both to measure and to point in the area in question. Birthmarks, warts and discoloring of the skin can easily be removed with an unfocused laser. The operations are quick and heal quickly and, best of all, they are less painful than ordinary surgery performed with a scalpel.
First published 19 December 2002
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