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New Laser Created That Covers Challenging Frequencies

Category: Science & Technology
Posted: 09:15AM

Our eyes allow us to see a wealth of colors, but the frequencies they represent span a very small section of the spectrum. Wavelengths outside the visible range can have many, powerful uses, but can also be challenging to produce. On example of this is the mid-infrared area of 3.1 and 3.2 microns, which lasers have struggled to work with before, but now researchers, as reported by The Optical Society, have created a new kind of laser that is able to emit in that range.

There are many different kinds of lasers out there, such as gas and fiber lasers. Gas lasers tend to be bulky and inflexible, which limits their applications, while fiber lasers are actually made in small, flexible optical fibers. The problem with fiber lasers for mid-IR wavelengths though is that the silica the fibers are made from absorbs emissions past 2.8 microns. Quantum cascade lasers, which are also able to produce mid-IR, do not really work until you reach 3.5 microns, leaving a gap. The new laser the researchers created is a hybrid of both gas and fiber lasers, but differs quite significantly from fiber lasers because they are hollow-core fibers. Traditional optical fibers have a solid core that the light travels along. With these hollow-core fibers, the light will actually travel through an open space with bubble-like structures surrounding the region. When the light strikes these structures, it will reflect back, remaining trapped in the fiber. This prevents the silica from absorbing the light, which is produced by exciting acetylene gas. This gas is already known to emit in the mid-IR, when stimulated by external sources, such as more traditional lasers.

Lasers operating in the 3.1 to 3.2 micron range could be used in spectroscopy, environmental sensing, and explosive detection, but this discovery has more uses than that. This new type of laser could be used with other gases, expanding the range of frequencies that can be emitted, and potentially allowing for new interactions between lasers and gases.

Source: The Optical Society

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