From Everyday to High Science: 10 Applications of Lasers
One of the staples of the technology developed using optics and photonics research is lasers. From large to small, this technology is everywhere, touching our daily lives as well as being an integral part of the biggest, most cutting-edge scientific discoveries.
Here are 10 great applications of lasers, from everyday applications to those used in major scientific discoveries:
One of the most recognizable uses for lasers is in the barcode scanners in every retail store.
These scanners use lasers to read the pattern of black and white on a price tag, and that pattern is matched to the individual product’s number in a database. The number brings up the product name, price, and other details, and automatically deducts the amount of product you purchase from the store’s inventory.
Using lasers in this retail application has allowed businesses to save a great deal of time the cashiers used to use manually typing in each product code. Additionally, because each barcode links to a unique number, there’s less chance that the incorrect number is recorded, helping the store’s inventory be more accurate and avoiding pricing confusion.
LiDAR - Light Detection and Ranging - is an impressive creation of the optics and photonics discipline.
Similar to using radio waves to detect things such as weather patterns and the speed of an object like RADAR does, LiDAR uses light to do much the same. LiDAR has been used in a variety of ways both for regular citizens, such as helping map your route to your vacation destination, as well as applications in high science.
For example, LiDAR has been used to record the distance from Earth to the moon. When astronauts traveled to the moon in 1971, they left mirrors on the moon that scientists have since used to bounce lasers off and, as a result, measure a distance never-before recorded.
Metal is among the most durable and versatile materials used in building, materials construction, and across a variety of disciplines.
As technology has increased, so has the complexity of the designs cut from metal.
One of the main ways the more intricate designs are cut is with the use of laser machines. These high-tech machines use high-powered lasers to cut designs out of metal pieces, with the design controlled by a computer.
Sometimes, scientists need to be able to manipulate individual molecules and atoms.
Because these particles are so tiny, they cannot be grabbed and moved around using traditional means. That’s where optical tweezers come in.
Optical tweezers use lasers to grab and manipulate particles, allowing researchers to turn, transport, and trap even individual atoms. This precision means researchers can do more delicate work, deepening their understanding of the properties and behavior of molecules and atoms.
Just as lasers can be used to cut pieces of metal into different shapes, they are used to weld two pieces of metal together.
Where older, more traditional welding meant two pieces of metal were joined into one single shape, laser welding allows for more complex, stronger weld points.
Not only can two pieces of metal be welded together into more complex shapes, two totally different metals can be joined that would have been otherwise impossible with traditional welding. This creates more interesting, unique designs that wouldn’t have been possible before.
Optics and photonics have become a large part of the medical field, with applications including imaging and, such as with laser scalpels, surgery.
A real, physical scalpel served its purpose for centuries, allowing surgeons to cut into the skin in a small area. However, they’re not always the best choice for incredibly delicate surgeries, such as brain and blood vessel procedures.
Laser scalpels harness the power of light to execute delicate procedures on parts of the body that may be harmed further by using a traditional scalpel, giving surgeons tighter control over their surgeries.
Fiber optics have become such an integral part of everyday life that you’re probably using the technology to read this article right now.
With fiber optics, data and information travels quickly from one point to another. This makes things such as surfing the internet, streaming video, and sending emails much faster than internet that doesn’t use fiber optics.
Capturing all the nooks and crannies when making an image of a 3-dimensional object can be difficult with traditional scanning methods.
Pictures must be taken from a variety of angles, and careful measurements have to be recorded. Even then, it’s difficult to tell whether the data you captured is accurate.
With 3D scanners, you can capture all the various data necessary to make an accurate digital representation of an object. This technology is being used by art historians to scan works of art to make restoration better and to allow those who are visually impaired to better experience the works.
Storing data, including music, video files, and text, became an increasingly more important task with the rise of computers.
Earlier storage devices, including vinyl records, cassette tapes, and floppy disks, did their job well enough, but as technology advanced they became outdated. The quality of the files they stored was low, and users demanded better storage options.
Enter CDs and DVDs, optical storage devices. These devices allowed not only for better file quality, but they were able to store larger amounts of data than their predecessors.
Beauty regimens have become more complex and high-tech just as surgeries and medical procedures have advanced.
To help people banish acne more quickly and effectively, whiten teeth, and eliminate unwanted body hair, aestheticians and doctors are turning to lasers.
Rather than spend lots of time and frustration using physical products to get the cosmetic results they want, patients elect to pay a higher one-time fee for a laser treatment to get them results that can be more effective and last longer.
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