Lasers were a technology developed in the middle of the 20th century. At the time of their discovery in the 1950s, relatively few people had any idea just how many applications they would have. But now, more than seventy years later, we know.
In this post, we take a look at some of the surprising uses of lasers and why they are so celebrated worldwide as a major technological breakthrough.
Information Processing At The Quantum Scale
Quantum computers already exist and some are operational, performing calculations that would take conventional computers thousands of years to complete. However, these systems rely on lasers.
It all comes down to the basic processing unit inside a quantum computer: the qubit. Qubits store information in a superposition and then, when programmers want the computer to make a measurement, they collapse into a single point instance.
Getting qubits into a superposition and inducing coupling between them, though, is no mean feat. However, lasers provide a solution. By imparting just the right energy state to qubits, they can force them to exhibit quantum properties, making them ready for quantum-style calculations
Biometric identification is becoming increasingly important in today’s society. With passwords becoming so easy to crack, we need stronger methods of protecting our personal accounts.
Here again, lasers can help. Lasers are able to quickly scan the contours of your finger using the light reflected to create a pattern. Access point software can then use this information to determine whether you are authorized to enter or not.
Police use the same technology when scanning prints at a crime scene. Lasers make it easy to find prints when crime scenes are lit in the proper fashion.
While most people love to have birds in their gardens, there are some situations where they are pests, or outright hazards, such as airport runways. People have tried all sorts of bird deterrence methods, but lasers appear to be among the most effective. Birds are startled by the contrast between ambient and laser light, encouraging them to go elsewhere.
Photolithography is a printing technique across multiple industries, but it is essential in computer chip fabrication. Lasers etch the surface of silicone to create transistor circuits on the surface at a nanometer scale. Without this technology, the modern PC would likely not exist in its present form.
Surfaces, particularly in industrial applications, can attract grease, dirt, and oxidation. Traditional cleaning methods involve some sort of cleaning solution. However, this runs the risk of changing the properties of the surface.
Laser cleaning offers a powerful solution. These methods do not require any cleaning products at all. Instead, the laser destroys the contaminant, changing its chemical form so that it brushes off.
Have you ever wondered how some cameras are able to capture millions of frames per second and show images of single light beams passing through Coke bottles?
Well, again, it’s all down to lasers. In femtosecond photography, lasers pulse millions or billions of times per second, acting as strobe lighting, allowing them to capture rapidly-moving objects in exquisite detail.
Holograms are found everywhere in our society, from the back of bank cards to the money in your pocket. These images typically change, depending on the angle from which you view them, making them hard for fraudsters to replicate.
As you might guess, lasers are essential for this as well. Lasers have the ability to split and then rejoin each other on the surface material. When lasers are shone on the surface, different refracting patterns occur, leading to the final holographic image.
Etching metal accurately is difficult. If you try to do it by hand, you’ll wind up with a big mess. However, when you do it with lasers, it’s easy. Lasers simply remove a uniform number of atoms from the metal’s surface, depending on the intensity set in the accompanying CAD software. Nobody needs to “cut” into the material, meaning that there is no disruption in the surrounding atomic structure.
Most teeth whitening solutions involve applying bleach to your teeth. However, lasers can have the same effect. They break down color-causing compounds on your teeth’s surface, leaving them looking pearly white.
Lastly, lasers have been a godsend for people with unwanted tattoos. Normally, tattoos remain under the skin for years because they contain ink particles that are too large for the immune system to dispose of. However, lasers have the ability to break these down into smaller components, causing tattoos to fade in a matter of months.