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4 Fascinating Uses of Laser Technology

Laser technology uses the stimulated emission of electromagnetic radiation to massively focus and amplify beams of light, which can then be directed with incredible accuracy. Laser technology has been around since the 1960s and has been employed in a variety of industries. Here are some of the most fascinating and widespread uses of laser technology.

Metal Cutting and Engraving

Laser technology has been successfully utilised as a cutting tool. Metal cutting and engraving machines that use lasers are now very common and can usually be connected directly to CAD programs. A typical laser cutting machine uses C02 laser beam generation, although some more expensive machines use fibre or crystal lasers.

DNA Sequencing

DNA sequencing is a scientific process that is used to determine the kind of information stored in a strand of DNA. Lasers are key to the process. 

Laser technology is used in a DNA sequencing method called Sequencing by Synthesis. In this method, a DNA template is attached to a solid support and individual nucleotides are added to the template in a sequential manner. The incorporation of each nucleotide is accompanied by the release of a light signal, which is proportional to the number of incorporated nucleotides. The light signals are detected by a charge-coupled device camera, and a laser is used to excite the luciferase enzyme that produces the light. The sequence of the DNA can then be determined by identifying the order of the incorporated nucleotides.

Non-Invasive Surgery

High powered lasers are commonly used in non-invasive surgery. Types of surgery that would previously have required cuts to be made in the flesh of the patient can now be completed using extremely concentrated beams of light. Cataract removal surgery, cosmetic skin surgery and the breaking down of kidney stones can all be completed using lasers. Around 30 million people worldwide have been successfully treated using laser eye procedures. Surgeons typically want to create as little trauma as possible in their patients during surgery as this helps with recovery time and surgery success rates. Lasers are key tools in helping to reduce surgical patient physical trauma, making it perfect for delicate organs like the eyes. LASIK surgery, for example, has been around for a while now, and helps to correct problems with the cornea. Alternative LASIK surgery options do exist, however, for those patients where lasers aren’t an option.

Beam Weapons

Now we come to the section of the article that sci fi fans have been waiting for. For almost as long as the laser has been in existence as a scientific reality, people have envisioned its use as a weapon. In the last few years, militaries around the world have come close to making this dark fantasy a reality.

The United States, United Kingdom and China have already tested high powered laser weapons. In most cases, these weapons are designed for air defence duties, although the United States may have created a weapon for use against manned targets.

Laser weapons have the potential to be extremely accurate and much more cost efficient than the missiles they are intended to replace in the air defence role. The main issue that designers are having when it comes to making laser weapons that can actually be deployed is the huge amount of power that is needed to fire the devices.