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Amazing – A Laser Show with Speakers for Galvos

I was reaing Instructables this weekend, and I came across a project that someone had done that used audio speakers like galvanometers (galvos) to actually move a laser beam around!  The project has full X-Y control of the laser beam, and with a wee little Arduino microcontroller, you have yourself a fully programmable laser show for about 50 bucks.  Pretty awesome.

Have you never seen a laser device that spells words and makes pictures and such?  Inside of those devices are several little things called galvanometers – in the laser world, we call them galvos, or a galvo, singular.  These things are basically moving coil electric current detectors, pure and simple.  When a voltage is applied, they react.  When a voltage is applied and changed several times a second, you see all kinds of little erratic movements in the galvo.  With laser shows and devices that utilize galvos to spell words and draw pictures with lasers, what is happening is that the voltage is being changed rapidly and constantly in order to make the laser appear to be spelling out these words and pictures.

Pretty simple and awesome, yeah?

You have to check out this amazing Instructables method for building this awesome little DIY galvo laser show.  It’s well worth a few Monday morning minutes!  Here’s a video of the system in action:

The Anti-Laser – Scientists Discover How to Cancel Out a Laser Beam

Whoa – a laser story that doesn’t involve someone mounting a man-killing laser on top of some kind of vehicle?!  SAY IT AIN’T SO!

Professor Douglas Stone and his team of Yale scientists have discovered a way to get material to nearly completely absorb laser light.  They’ve developed this thing – more of a material, really – called a CPA, or Coherent Perfect Absorber.  What it seems the team has done is to take the Law of Conservation of Energy and used it to their advantage.  Do we all remember the Law of Conservation of Energy?

Energy can not be created or destroyed – it can only change form.

So what the scientists have done here, in layman’s terms, is that they’ve figured out a way to get laser light to basically be absorbed into a medium by waiting until that laser light bounces around this little silicon chamber until its energy changes forms to heat energy.  Stone and his team used a silicon structure to basically take beams of laser light and capture them in this silicon medium until they change form to heat energy.  Right now his team says that they can capture 99.4% of the light through absorption, but their Coherent Perfect Absorber will potentially be able to capture 99.99% of the laser light shone into the CPA.

Why this is significant is that silicon is already being used in the semiconductor industry in computers – this new technology from Yale and Douglas Stone’s team has potentially many, many uses in computing – the hope is that they’ll be able to use these tech as a way to make microswitches and other types of computer components.  Hey, using light instead of electrons?  Awesome!

Very cool!

Thanks CTV, BBC, PopSci, and NewScientist!

Something Horribly Wrong is Going On at Wicked Lasers

A quick update on this post:  I did receive my laser after  a long wait.  But it took me getting ahold of the VP of Customer Service to do it.  I am, believe it or not, considering ordering a green laser from them.  I have been assured that the manufacturing and shipping problems have been corrected.  So, for what it’s worth, the laser is pretty awesome.

I’m not into libel or anything – these are hard facts for consumers to make up their own mind before they have to go through the experience that I am currently not enjoying.  However, I feel that with the research that I have, consumers can make up their own minds about future purchases from Wicked Lasers.

I’ve been into lasers for quite some time now, and back in August I decided to get one of Wicked Lasers’ 1W direct diode blue lasers from their China facility.  I am putting together a little laser studio, and I thought that their S3 Spyder Arctic 1W blue would be perfect.  Honestly, it would have been perfect, I think, and with the optics sets that I purchased and the laser shades that I ordered, I would have had a nice laser source to conduct some research!  HOW EXCITING!

Oh, contrare, mo frere.

I ordered the Spyder Arctic, along with their Expanded Optics set, the safety lenses (basically a low-power lens), and some laser goggles.  My order total came to $404.89, which was charged to my card the day I purchased the package, August 24.  On that day, Wicked Lasers’ website stated 3-5 days on shipping.  I had fully planned on rocking the heck out of that laser and optics set that weekend!

Well, here’s where the disappointment comes in – and it’s disappointing because, well, it’s a 1W direct diode blue laser, for under $400! I really, really wanted this for my research and work!

About 8 days after not hearing anything from Wicked Lasers about my purchase, I called the customer service center, apparently located in the United States.  At first glance, no one could locate my order number, so a message was taken to have a senior customer service representative call me back.  Another week went by, no contact, so I called again, got the same thing.  Then I went to the website and saw this – a “new” shipping schedule for the S3 Spyder Arctic:

Okay, suck.  So now 3-5 business days has turned into October 24.  Well, I really, really wanted this laser and optics set, so I put it out of my head and gave Wicked Lasers the benefit of the doubt – my order number was #66XXX, so October 24 it shall be.  However, October 24 had come and gone, and nothing.  I called customer service to find out if perhaps my laser package was stuck in US Customs, but once again, the customer service agent couldn’t locate my order number, so yet another message was forwarded to wherever they keep forwarding these messages that never get returned.

I’ve made a total of eleven calls to the US-based customer service department for Wicked Lasers.  I have had a total number of zero messages returned, even when the agent tells me that they’ve found my number, the status is still “backordered,” and a supervisor will call me within the day.

Starting to seem like a sham yet?  Well, it gets better.  Two days ago (October 26, 2010), I went to check the website to see if there was any more new information about my laser package.  I then find this – a new, revised shipping schedule:

The NEW SCHEDULE now says NOVEMBER 28 for shipping my S3 Spyder Arctic laser.  No one at customer service will return my calls.  Customer service agents keep passing me off, telling me that a supervisor will return my call.  Nothing – not even an email telling me that they’ll ship when they’re damned good and ready, nothing.  How about now?  Seem like a sham now?

So Wicked Lasers, since I’ve heard nothing from anyone, I’m filing a chargeback tomorrow and a fraud report with American Express.  Is anyone else who reads JimOnLight.com having this kind of trouble with Wicked Lasers?

OH – then there was this, on the Wicked Lasers Facebook profile:

Who knows what the hell this is about, but what it looks like is crap.  Shipping numbers posted out of order?  What’s that about?  Also, if this is a hack or something, wouldn’t you think that they’d take it down to stop confusing their customers?

Here’s what I know (which was true at the time of writing this post):

  1. Wicked Lasers let me order a laser and accessories that it seems like they have no intention of shipping to me.
  2. Wicked Lasers also took my money immediately for a product that it appears that they will never be shipping – were this a $5-10 dollar item, I’d just eat it and stop wasting my time, but it was over $400.
  3. I am not the only person dealing with this game of poop.
  4. Wicked Lasers CONTINUES TO ACCEPT ORDERS AND PAYMENT FOR LASERS THEY’RE NOT SHIPPING.
  5. Wicked Lasers will not contact me (or others) back with regards of why we don’t have our packages that were promised October 24.
  6. Customer service is a waste of a phone call, and emails are even worse.

 

 

12X Blu-Ray Star Trek Phaser That Actually – Um, Phases

Okay, for super nerd-dom I have to hand this one to Jay Rob from the Laser Pointer Forums.  Jay took a 12X Blu-Ray laser (from that great supplier AixiZ) and stuffed it into one of those old Star Trek phaser toys.  So now, instead of being on stun, it’s set on “I’ll Burn You, Mofo.”

That’s right.  Check out this video – Jay opens up a can of ButtKick on some balloons from across the room:

That is freaking awesome.  Jay posted the entire how-to on the Laser Pointer Forums – definitely check it out!  He’s even added a safety to his modification!

CAVEAT:
If you’re gonna be playing around with lasers, especially this kind of laser project, you need to cough up some bread and get a pair of laser filter glasses so you don’t burn your eyes out.  Here’s a pair from OEM LAser Systems, Inc that will do the job fine, and here is a bunch from Amazon. Don’t mess around with this, you need them.  Playing with lasers isn’t worth your sight.  Oh, and also – you’re not gonna blame it on me if you screw up.  Play smart.

Kate Lancaster and the Vulcan Pulse Laser

vulcan-laser

Just to probe the depths of my inner nerd (like even bigger than the nerds in Revenge of the Nerds, part ONE), I found this great video today through Physics World – Kate Lancaster, a physicist at the Vulcan laser at the the Central Laser Facility in the UK, did an interview with a Physics World.  I’ve embedded it below.

To give you an idea of how unfathomably powerful the Vulcan laser is one zetawatt per centimeter, or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 watts.  I had to look that up – I had no idea how many zeroes a zeta had!  It’s 1X10^21 watts per centimeter.  That is unbefreakinglievably powerful.  My mind cannot comprehend it – in the video, the narrator/interviewer says that the Vulcan laser is as powerful as all of the sunlight on Earth, condensed into the size of the tip of a human hair.

Check out the video – it is only for the super-geeks among us – but it’s a quick little awesome interview about the Vulcan laser and what goes on there.  I just wish they included the name of the interviewer!  What a thing to leave out!

Boeing’s Advanced Tactical Laser Shoots Cars in the Hood

The HOOD, not the ‘hood.  The government would never go into the ‘hood and light up cars with a drone mounted laser.  Right?

So, as of June, the Boeing Corporation had been testing its new 25kW thin-disk laser system, which is apparently “weapons-grade” now.  From the press release at Boeing:

“Solid-state lasers will revolutionize the battlefield by giving the warfighter an ultra-precision engagement capability that can dramatically reduce collateral damage,” said Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems. “These successful tests show that Boeing has made solid progress toward making this revolutionary capability a reality.”

The thin-disk laser is an initiative to demonstrate that solid-state laser technologies are now ready to move out of the laboratory and into full development as weapon systems. Solid-state lasers are powered by electricity, making them highly mobile and supportable on the battlefield. The Boeing laser represents the most electrically efficient solid-state laser technology known. The system is designed to meet the rapid-fire, rapid-retargeting requirements of area-defense, anti-missile and anti-mortar tactical high-energy laser systems. It is also ideal for non-lethal, ultra-precision strike missions urgently needed by warfighters in war zones.

This is what you’re about to see – the laser in action from an actual C-130 Hercules:

This video shows the effect of the high-energy laser beam from the Boeing Advanced Tactical Laser (ATL), fired at a stationary truck from a US Air Force NC-130H flying over White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, on August 30, 2009. The ATL is a chemical oxygen iodine laser (COIL), and is a scaled-down version of the megawatt-class high-energy laser in the Boeing YAL-1 Airborne Laser (ABL). ABL and ATL are both technology demonstration programs.

This is an actual flyby.  This laser is mounted on an actual plane.  This car’s hood is actually getting a hole burned in it.

A couple of questions come to mind here:

  • Why is Boeing still trying to develop the COIL laser technology?  This is the same technology that requires lots of deadly chemicals, lasts for a few seconds, and then burns out?  It’s the equivalent of dropping a bomb – once the payload (the chemicals in this case) are used up, the plane must reload.  Aren’t there solid state alternatives that can me researched to make a multi-shot laser technology?  I would think that, since we’re not using this energy and time to develop something that could actually cure cancer or AIDS or something of the like, shouldn’t it at least be as efficient as possible?
  • Why aren’t we directing this research money into curing cancer or AIDS?

Well, I’ll never know.  I guess I am just that naive.  You could say I’m a dreamer.

Thanks, Geekologie!

The Spaser – The World’s Smallest Laser

SPASER nanolaser

Scientists in Indiana (at Purdue University) have created the Spaser – a nanolaser that is the smallest of its kind, ever.  The press release from Purdue University is below – please check it out!  This technology could revolutionize many dervices, including computing.  Check it out:

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.: Researchers have created the tiniest laser since its invention nearly 50 years ago, paving the way for a host of innovations, including superfast computers that use light instead of electrons to process information, advanced sensors and imaging.

Because the new device, called a “spaser,” is the first of its kind to emit visible light, it represents a critical component for possible future technologies based on “nanophotonic” circuitry, said Vladimir Shalaev, the Robert and Anne Burnett Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Purdue University.

Such circuits will require a laser-light source, but current lasers can’t be made small enough to integrate them into electronic chips. Now researchers have overcome this obstacle, harnessing clouds of electrons called “surface plasmons,” instead of the photons that make up light, to create the tiny spasers.

Findings are detailed in a paper appearing online in the journal Nature that reports on work conducted by researchers at Purdue, Norfolk State University and Cornell University.

Nanophotonics may usher in a host of radical advances, including powerful “hyperlenses” resulting in sensors and microscopes 10 times more powerful than today’s and able to see objects as small as DNA; computers and consumer electronics that use light instead of electronic signals to process information; and more efficient solar collectors.

“Here, we have demonstrated the feasibility of the most critical component – the nanolaser – essential for nanophotonics to become a practical technology,” Shalaev said.

The “spaser-based nanolasers” created in the research were spheres 44 nanometers, or billionths of a meter, in diameter – more than 1 million could fit inside a red blood cell. The spheres were fabricated at Cornell, with Norfolk State and Purdue performing the optical characterization needed to determine whether the devices behave as lasers.

The findings confirm work by physicists David Bergman at Tel Aviv University and Mark Stockman at Georgia State University, who first proposed the spaser concept in 2003.

“This work represents an important milestone that may prove to be the start of a revolution in nanophotonics, with applications in imaging and sensing at a scale that is much smaller than the wavelength of visible light,” said Timothy D. Sands, the Mary Jo and Robert L. Kirk Director of the Birck Nanotechnology Center in Purdue’s Discovery Park.

The spasers contain a gold core surrounded by a glasslike shell filled with green dye. When a light was shined on the spheres, plasmons generated by the gold core were amplified by the dye. The plasmons were then converted to photons of visible light, which was emitted as a laser.

Spaser stands for surface plasmon amplification by stimulated emission of radiation. To act like lasers, they require a “feedback system” that causes the surface plasmons to oscillate back and forth so that they gain power and can be emitted as light. Conventional lasers are limited in how small they can be made because this feedback component for photons, called an optical resonator, must be at least half the size of the wavelength of laser light.

The researchers, however, have overcome this hurdle by using not photons but surface plasmons, which enabled them to create a resonator 44 nanometers in diameter, or less than one-tenth the size of the 530-nanometer wavelength emitted by the spaser.

“It’s fitting that we have realized a breakthrough in laser technology as we are getting ready to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the invention of the laser,” Shalaev said.

The first working laser was demonstrated in 1960.

The research was conducted by Norfolk State researchers Mikhail A. Noginov, Guohua Zhu and Akeisha M. Belgrave; Purdue researchers Reuben M. Bakker, Shalaev and Evgenii E. Narimanov; and Cornell researchers Samantha Stout, Erik Herz, Teeraporn Suteewong and Ulrich B. Wiesner.

Future work may involve creating a spaser-based nanolaser that uses an electrical source instead of a light source, which would make them more practical for computer and electronics applications.

The work was funded by the National Science Foundation and U.S. Army Research Office and is affiliated with the Birck Nanotechnology Center, the Center for Materials Research at Norfolk State, and Cornell’s Materials Science and Engineering Department.

Thanks, Medgadget!

British Doctors Tell Age-Related Macular Degernation to Suck It

Have you ever heard of age-related macular degeneration, or AMD?  Do you suffer from AMD?  It is a common form of blindness, and as you get older (hence the age related part), your macula starts to degenerate (hence the degeneration part) and you lose your detail vision.  This sucks, as there hasn’t been much that people can do about it happening until lately.  It’s not a cure per se, but it’s a new technique that doctors are saying might be able to help re-generate part of the macula that needs a bit of wakey-wakey-eggs-and-bakey.

By stimulating a part of the eye called the Bruch’s Membrane, scientists in the UK have been able to slow down degeneration of the macula, and in some cases stop it altogether.  Using a laser to “breathe some life” into the membrane, scientists have been able to wake it up a bit so that it continues to perform its function and not just sit there like a dunce.  The laser treatment takes about ten to fifteen minutes.  Crazy, huh?

Oh yeah – “hey Jim, what is the Bruch’s Membrane, and what does it do?

Bruch’s Membrane is a part of the eye behind the retina, between the retina.  Bruch’s Membrane performs a very, very important function – it removes waste products from the retina and brings in nutrients and oxygen.  You’d think that’s pretty important, huh?  Check out an eye diagram:

detail1

Bruch’s Membrane is part of the Choroid, which lives behind the retina.  When it doesn’t do its job, waste products just build up around the macula and the cells begin to die over time.  The laser treatment targets this membrane to hopefully stimulate it so it starts to perform its waste removal function:

eyesight

From the article I read about this procedure in the Daily Mail:

The technique is the brainchild of Professor John Marshall, an ophthalmologist at King’s College London who pioneered laser surgery to correct shortsightedness.

Professor Marshall, who hopes the treatment could be available in a couple of years, said: ‘It is really exciting news. It won’t bring back damaged eyesight but it may prevent AMD.’

The technique rejuvenates the ‘Bruch’s membrane’ – a thin layer that lies behind the retina.

This provides the retina’s light-sensitive cells with nutrients and removes waste created as a by-product of the way retina cells renew themselves.

But the membrane’s cells eventually lose the ability to take waste away, allowing deposits to build up.

It can then become so damaged that the retina’s lightsensitive cells start to die off. In a trial involving more than 100 diabetics, Professor Marshall found that using a laser stimulated the membrane’s tired, ageing cells into action.

After the cells were ‘ energised’ by the laser, they began to clean up the waste again.

Patients also said the treatment led to a ‘ marked improvement’ in their sight.

The non-invasive operation uses a laser modified to give pulses of light that do not damage the eye’s light-sensitive cells or cause any dangerous heating of the target area.

Professor Marshall will now treat up to 200 people with AMD in one eye as part of a second trial. Such patients usually get the disease in the other eye within three years.

He wants to see if the laser prevents the good eye losing its sight. ‘If you can delay the onset by three, four, six, seven or ten years, it’s proof of the principle,’ he said.

Tom Pey, of Guide Dogs for the Blind, which funded the research, said: ‘This is potentially a huge breakthrough for millions. The science behind it is proven.’

The Macular Disease Society said: ‘If this works, then it’s very exciting. However, it will be years before this could be ready for use.’

Let’s hope we read more about this in the very near future!

We Can’t Contain Our Big Killer Lasers

YAL-1

In a bit of irony in the world, an article was published recently stating that laser weaponry research has begun to see a bit of stalling out.  Weapons scientists haven’t been able to deal with waste heat generated by these mega lasers, and the mirrors and optics needed to focus the lasers onto moving targets can’t handle the power.  From the article at New Scientist:

In recent tests, several prototypes have suffered serious damage to their optics at intensities well below the expected levels of tolerance. “Optical damage has been quietly alarming upper management in most major programmes,” Sean Ross of the US Air Force Research Laboratory in New Mexico told a meeting of the Directed Energy Professional Society in Newton, Massachusetts, last week. There are also big problems managing the waste heat generated by high-intensity beams.

In addition to this optics and reflecting problem, heat is also slowing the progress considerably. For every watt of laser fury we develop, four watts of waste heat is generated. Scientists are having a hard time developing a low form factor cooling mechanism that might slow the laser weapons from eating themselves.

Remember the YAL-1?  The “Flying Light Saber?”  The jumbo jet with a mega chemical laser mounted inside is also experiencing some stalling issues.  Again, from the New Scientist article:

Earlier this year in the US, engineers halted tests of the $4.3 billion megawatt-class Airborne Laser short of full power to avoid damaging “a handful of optics in the turret”, according to Mike Rinn, a Boeing vice-president who manages the programme. They realised that the optics, designed years ago, would be “frail” in the presence of any contamination, which would be virtually inevitable in flight. In the next week or so, Boeing engineers will install replacement optics and test them on the ground before running the laser at full power in flight.

Do you think that this should be a signal to focus some laser research in other areas, for example, healing people?  I am very critical of energy weapons, I realize – don’t get me wrong, if we have to have mega death killer weapons, I’d much rather the research be in high energy or light-related weaponry than I would them be nuclear, chemical, or biologically based.  But instead of using such amazing technology to wipe out life, why not at least, in conjunction with annihilating each other, that we research killing cancer and other worldwide nasties, too.

I cannot for the life of me figure out why we’re not researching helpful uses of high energy technology as much as we are killer weapons.  Anyone got an answer for that?