What exactly is a laser beam?
A laser beam is a concentrated stream of light with a single wavelength. Although the word laser is generally accepted in common language, it was originally an acronym for "light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation". There are numerous types of lasers that are used in a variety of technical applications, including welding and surgery. Lasers are also important in science fiction, where they are frequently described as powerful weapons.
When an atom is exposed to energy, the orbits of its electrons change. When this happens, light particles known as photons are released. Photons in a normal beam are released at random; photons in a laser beam are concentrated and more organized. This is typically accomplished through a process known as stimulated emission, in which a photon released by one atom stimulates other atoms to produce photons of the same wavelength. Most laser devices also have mirrors that allow the beam to bounce back and forth, creating a large chain reaction that eventually produces the laser beam.
Theodore Maiman invented the first laser in 1960, using a combination of high-power light and a silver-coated ruby rod. His discovery was initially dismissed because it appeared too similar to previous experiments using focused light. It took scientists a long time to recognize the significance of Maiman's discovery, and even longer to find a practical application for the technology.
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Gordon Gould also claimed to be the inventor of the laser, but who deserves the most credit is debatable. Gould claims to have invented a working laser in the late 1950s, but it took him far too long to patent it. Whether or not Gould is credited with creating the first true laser beam
, he is widely regarded as the first to use the term laser.
Laser beams were initially used as an alternative to other focusing technologies available at the time. Scientists were quick to generate ideas for laser applications, but it took some time to overcome technical challenges. Lasers have found their way into many devices that the average person comes into contact with on a daily basis. Laser technology is commonly used in barcode readers, DVD drives, and security systems. Laser beams have also had an impact on medicine, allowing doctors to perform delicate surgeries that would not have been possible without the fine control and accuracy provided by lasers.
Laser beams are electromagnetic waves with wavelengths ranging from 400 nm to 700 nm that are produced by stimulated emission. Light is a wave made up of short wave packets known as photones. An atom is encouraged to emit another photon by an already existing photon in stimulated emission. This can be accomplished through external energy supply ("pumping"), such as light irradiation (DPSS lasers) or electric energy (diode lasers). Furthermore, a resonator comprised of two mirrors between which the rays are permanently reflected and thus amplified is required. One of these mirrors has a slight sheen to it.
The laser beam is the source of the light. In a laser projector, the emitted beams are filtered by a dichroic filter (which allows only desired wavelengths to pass through) before striking the mirrors of the laser scanner, which deflect them. As a result, visible laser beams
escape from the projector's laser outlet.
The colors of the beams vary depending on the wavelength. Laser light is very concentrated, and its beams can be seen from a long distance. To achieve a narrow and sharp beam even over longer distances (so-called collimation), the waves must be spatially coherent.