• Question: What are lazers made out of and how did the substance used to make lazers get discovered?

    Asked by {^-^._.-.-}ALsHmeXi{-.-._.^-^}TGS to Sarah, Connor on 23 Jun 2015.
    • Photo: Connor Macrae

      Connor Macrae answered on 23 Jun 2015:

      Lazers aren’t actually made out of anything very special, what’s special is how that material is used. Common lasers are made out of Carbon dioxide – which is what we exhale! They work using atomic physics, where electrons are ‘pumped’ into higher energy levels, which they then fall back down from, producing light at a set wavelength.

      The first laser was discovered in 1960 in California. The laser was first made to work using a high powered lamp that was shined onto a silver-coated ruby rod. The lamp acted to excite atoms in the rob and the lasing was produced by the de-excitement. As for how other materials used in lasers were found I can’t help you their, but maybe Sarah knows!

    • Photo: Sarah Beasley

      Sarah Beasley answered on 23 Jun 2015:

      Some of the longer range lasers we use, such as designators used to point out targets, are made of neodymium-doped yttrium aluminium garnet, but we call them Neodymium-Yag lasers. They have to be what’s called frequency-doubled to make them 1064nm (they’re usually 532), and can also be used on stuff like removing skin cancers.

      Connor’s right, CO2 is commonly used. Another really common one is Helium-Neon, then other gases like Argon and Nitrogen are used too, all with varying applications. Then we can use chemicals like hydrogen fluoride too but I know less about those. And semiconductors, and ruby, and loads of others!