Lasers were once considered too highly specialized and expensive to be useful anywhere but in the laboratory. Over the years, however, as the devices have become smaller, more reliable, and less expensive, lasers have been widely adopted in applications as varied as surgery and welding, as well as in industries like military and aerospace. Now, small, powerful, cost-effective solid-state lasers have replaced traditional gas lasers in many systems. Let’s take a look.
Lasers That Excite
There are five general categories of lasers: gas, liquid, plasma, semiconductor, and solid-state. Both semiconductor and solid-state lasers use a solid media, but in solid-state lasers, this medium is typically made from crystal, glass, or ceramics. This material acts as a host to which a dopant is added – usually a rare earth metal. This ionic material is then excited by optical pumping to produce the light that powers the laser.
Solid-State Lasers Offer Big Power in a Compact Package
For decades, air-cooled argon lasers have been successfully used in a wide variety of applications, but solid-state devices are becoming more popular. Significant progress has been made in recent years in generating new emission wavelengths and tunable sources of laser radiation from these devices. Today, the power, accuracy, and beam quality of solid-state lasers are on a par with those of argon lasers. And although argon lasers have an expected lifespan of 10,000 hours, preliminary findings show solid-state lasers may offer up to twice that. This can make them a more cost-effective option in the long term.
In addition, solid-state lasers are more rugged and compact than gas lasers, making them ideal for a number of applications, such as in medical devices. The biggest advantage, however, may be their energy efficiency. An air-cooled ion laser typically uses a kilowatt or more of power to produce 10 to 20 mW of blue light. The energy requirements of solid-state lasers are usually measured in the tens of watts or less. Solid-state lasers can also be programmed to release ultrashort pulses, which also greatly improves their efficiency and performance.
From Welding to Surgery: The Many Uses of Solid-State Lasers
Solid-state lasers are being adopted in a wide variety of industries and applications. In manufacturing and materials processing, they are used for welding, as well as marking, drilling, and cutting operations. In the medical field, they can be used for delicate procedures such as skin treatments and tattoo removal, or as a scalpel in tumor ablation and laser eye surgery. The military and aerospace industries are also using solid-state lasers for weapon systems and as detonation devices. These versatile devices are also used to conduct research in particle physics, material science, and nuclear power.
Fiberguide Industries Provides a Powerful Link for Solid-State Laser Applications
As solid-state laser technology continues to advance, more and more applications will take advantage of these devices. For more than three decades Fiberguide Industries has been a reliable, long-term, strategic partner with OEM manufacturers in providing efficient, cost-effective, practical fiber optic solutions engineered to meet their specific needs. Fiberguide is proud to be part of the solid-state laser revolution by offering High Power Assemblies that use High Power SMA and FD-80 connectors to provide a fiber optic link between the laser source and the target.
Learn more today at fiberguide.com/industries/power-delivery/.
Author: Kevin Rauscher