What You May Have Missed with Lasers in January
Thursday, February 12, 2015

From its inception 55 years ago, the laser has had a lifespan full of changes, advancements and has been the impetus in forming new technology. It isn’t surprising then, though it’s only the second month of 2015, that January saw new developments for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation. Whether it was at the Consumer Electronics Show, in a lab or in another country, this may be the best year for the laser yet.

•     BMW “smart headlights”
The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas saw everything from amped-up smartwatches to a smart mirror that would let the user see possible makeup and hair combinations before leaving the house; it could even analyze one’s skin health. But these weren’t the only things that stole the show. The well-known car company, BMW, showed off their “smart headlights” concept design during CES. Headlights and laser beams may not go together initially, but this new type of headlight incorporates laser high beams that are able to sense if a car is approaching from the opposite lane and choose to dim themselves so the driver doesn’t have to. This can improve safety on the road as some may forget their high beams are on and could accidentally harm another driver’s vision. While this is just a concept design thus far, BMW also displayed the design of a laser projection of your vehicle. The projection would tell the driver the vehicle’s exact width so it would be easier to maneuver in and out of narrow areas.

•     Lab-created “air lasers”
Switching gears from an electronics show to the inner workings of lasers, physicists and researchers at the University of Arizona in Tucson have worked long and hard to develop a new technique that can create air lasers for potential practical use. The development these researchers have worked on requires two lasers for the “air laser” to work. An infrared laser is needed for its pulse to break apart nitrogen and oxygen molecules in the atmosphere. The molecules get broken up into atoms. An ultraviolet laser is also needed. The ultraviolet laser pulse excites the oxygen and nitrogen that are now atoms, having them give off near-infrared light, which is similar to a laser. As these “air lasers” have only been tested in a lab so far, it is difficult to say if they’ll become a thing of the future. Currently, the lab-tested one only has a range of a few hundred meters to one kilometer, so they aren’t quite for practical use just yet. The complete findings of the research team can be found in the journal Physical Review Letters.

•     Lasers for air defense
This isn’t something from the latest “Terminator” movie. This announcement made last month, is from the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) saying that IDF will implement their new defense system this year, which is a laser-based system. Dubbed “Iron Beam,” the system is said to use a solid-state laser as its basis. As of January, Israeli defense officials have not given ay details on the system other than a fiber optic laser beam with a high energy will be used. Though it seems like mum’s the word almost everywhere about this system, you can read more about it here.


Often used in a pointer as a way to play with cats, lasers have much more potential than that. Though it may be early on in 2015, researchers, developers and even enthusiasts are finding new ways to advance the laser. Who knows what new technology the laser will bring by this year’s end?





 
 
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