A New Laser Material is Born | AIChE

A New Laser Material is Born


Neodymium ions combined with yttrium aluminum garnet (YAG) have long been the workhorses of the laser industry. Now, materials scientists at Univ. of California, San Diego (UC San Diego) have successfully dissolved high concentrations of neodymium ions into alumina crystals, creating a unique ceramic-based laser material that can emit high-power, ultrashort laser pulses.

The neodymium-alumina material could enable smaller, more powerful lasers and is the first of its kind to achieve gain — i.e., it can absorb external light and transfer part of its own energy to produce amplified laser light.

Lasers have become increasingly popular, particularly in the medical and manufacturing industries. Laser eye surgery dominates current vision-correction treatment, and dermatologists routinely use lasers to remove anything from old scars to varicose veins.

The principle behind all lasers, from those that cut fabric for jeans to those fictionalized by Star Wars, is basic. Electrons within the laser material must be excited by another laser or light, which allows them to move from a state of lower energy to one of higher energy. When these electrons return to their normal state, they emit photons that can be honed into beams...

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