The word “laser” is actually an acronym of the phrase “light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation,” a technique first theorized by Albert Einstein and later invented by physicist Charles Towne. The first actual device was built and used by Theodore Maiman, an engineer and physicist at Hughes Research Laboratories in 1960. Since then the technology has done through many developments. The following are some of the highlights in the history of the laser.
1960s and 1970s
In May of 1960, Maiman built the first laser device using a cylinder of synthetic ruby. In the same year, other physicists invented a uranium laser and a helium-neon laser. In 1961, a laser was first used in a medical procedure to destroy a retinal tumor. The following year, the Q-switching laser was developed, generating a hundred times the power of ruby lasers. In 1964, a new type of argon-ion laser was invented that could produce beams at multiple wavelengths of light. A couple of years later, the invention of fiber optics had a major impact on laser technology by facilitating the transmission of light over long distances. The 1970s saw more commercial applications of laser technology. In this decade, the laser was first used to scan bar codes, etch electric currents on ceramic, record laser discs, and transmit phone conversations over fiber optic cables.
1980s and 1990s
In the early 1980s, an engineer at MIT invented the titanium-sapphire laser, which generated extremely fast pulses. At Bell Labs, lasers were first used to study the movements and behaviors of atoms. The 1990s saw the invention of the quantum cascade laser, which was used to identify gases in the atmosphere; the quantum dot laser; the pulsed atom laser; and the gallium-nitride laser.
2000s and 2010s
In the first two decades of the new millennium, advances in laser technology led to the developments of lasers that were faster and far more powerful than anything seen before. Applications have included a laser-powered spacecraft, more efficient light bulbs, faster transmission of digital data, and space exploration. In the past decade, PC-controlled lasers have been entering households in large numbers. To learn more about how lasers are impacting everyday life, visit http://facebook.com/bosslasers.