5 things lasers are used for that will surprise you

5 things lasers are used for that will surprise you

Lasers are an integral part of the technology we depend on every day and their widespread use continue to evolve. But what are lasers really used for? 1. Welding and cutting. Some lasers can deliver thousands of Watts of power, these high powered laser beams can be used for welding and cutting almost any material! High powered lasers are often used in the automotive industry. 2. Lasers in communication Ever wondered how data is carried across the Internet to billions of people around the world? Internet data can be considered to be made up a series of 1’s (ON) and 0’s (OFF) which are can be thought of as switching a laser beam on and off. These 1’s and 0’s from the laser is carried through fibre optic cables at close to the speed of light 299,792,458 metres per second. 3. Barcode scanners If you have been shopping you most likely have noticed the scanners used in supermarkets to identify the products and their prices. A laser beam is focused onto a barcode and the light reflected back is read by a light detector. Typical barcodes are made up of a series of black and white lines, the different thickness of these lines determine the value read by the scanner. 4. In the medical field Lasers are widely used in laser eye surgery procedures to correct eye conditions such as cataracts, short and long-sightedness. Procedures are carried out by using a laser to cut and alter specific areas of the eye. 5. Entertainment Lasers are widely used in the entertainment industry to create images, patterns and designs at laser...
Light, the universe and everything

Light, the universe and everything

In praise of the DIY Telescope Light is fascinating. Without visible light, we are blind and yet, paradoxically, its absence helps us to see the stars at their best. Light is both enemy and friend. Ancient light, recently mapped by the Planck satellite, reveals a visible universe 50 million years older than was previously thought, at 13.82 billion years. Our spiral neighbour, the Andromeda Galaxy, is light years away but can be seen on a dark night with binoculars, even from an urban location. Sometimes, with the naked eye. A fuzzy patch of starlight, emitting photons that have sped through space at around 1079 million kph (670 million mph) for over 2.54 million years, to eventually reach our retinas. We are truly gazing into the distant past. Time-travelling. Nearer to home, our Moon has no intrinsic light of its own but reflects that of the Sun (its albedo). As it orbits the Earth every 27.5 days, its lunar phases wax and wane under the Earth’s shadow, from crescent to quarter to Full Moon and back. An easy method of telling if the Moon is waxing or waning is to trace the round curve of its illuminated edge. If the resulting shape forms a letter ‘b’, it is before Full Moon, so waxing. A letter ‘a’ indicates that it is after Full Moon and so on the wane. Light can also be manipulated: focused and magnified. Telescopes. From Patrick Moore to Brian Cox, astronomy has evolved spectacularly over the last fifty years. Today, you can easily order yourself a reasonably priced, shiny new ‘go-to’ telescope, online. Just power it up, align...
5 things you probably didn't know about fibre optic cables

5 things you probably didn't know about fibre optic cables

1. Optical fibres are thinner Optical fibres are known to being be extremely thin and smaller than any other type of metal wiring. How thin can optical fibres be? Aston University’s Photonics team Institute has over 300 km of optical fibre dedicated to the research of a high speed internet network, all within one research lab! 2. Optical fibres are lightweight The thinner optical fibre also means that they are lighter. This makes it easier to transport large amounts of cable. The lighter weight of the cabling results in lower transportation costs and any risks associated with heavy lifting. The cable’s compact nature also means that it can be installed in very tight spaces. 3. Optical fibres are secure Security is important to anyone transmitting private signals. It is far more difficult and costly to tap into an optical fibre than electrical wiring. This makes optical fibre cabling far more secure than normal wiring. 4. Optical fibres are efficient The signals sent through copper wiring degrade relatively quickly and therefore need multiple substations to maintain a good signal quality. Suffering a poor internet connection? It’s likely you are on a copper network. Signals sent through optical fibre do not degrade as quickly as those sent through a copper, resulting in less substations needed to retain the quality of the signal. The fewer the stations, the more efficient the transmission. 5. Optical fibres are weather safe Since optical fibres carry light, rather than electrical signals, they are not affected by any changes in weather. Temperature, rain and lightning can all affect electrical signals transmitted through traditional cabling. The image bellow...
5 amazing things about fibre optics

5 amazing things about fibre optics

In 2013, the United Kingdom saw its annual number of installed optical fibres grow to 172%. You are most likely to find optical fibres in high speed internet cables, but what are they? Why are they so special and what else are they used for? Here are 5 amazing things about fibre optics: 1. Optical fibres carry Light Shockingly, you can not get a shock from optical fibres. They contain absolutely no electrical current, only light. This makes them safer as they produce no heat and aren’t prone to being a fire hazard, unlike metal wiring. 2. Optical fibres are faster Evidently because optical fibres light, the data transfer is faster than the traditional cabling due to its capacity. At present, typically optical fibres can transmit 10-80 Gigabits per second over a single channel. With Wave Division Multiplexing (WDM), multiple channels can be transmitted over a single optical fibre cable. The current record is 15.5 Terabits per second over a distance of 7,000 kilometres. That’s the equivalent of 10.3 million 1.5Mbps DSL connections. 3. Optical fibres carry binary data Digital data is binary. This suits optical fibres as binary digits can be transmitted through an optical fibre as on and off signals by switching on and off a light source. 4. Optical fibres are used everywhere Optical fibres are not only used in data transmission. Their range of use extends to photography, medical imaging and even artificial Christmas trees! 5. Optical fibres are Green Typically the amount of energy needed to transmit a message across a given distance is more cost efficient using an optical fibre as opposed to transmitting electrical signals down...
3 things you probably didn't know about lasers

3 things you probably didn't know about lasers

You probably know lasers as a staple of the Sci-Fi genre or as part of a high-tech security system in a heist film, but behind the fantasy there is some interesting science at work. Starting with the name, the word laser is actually an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. And what we know as a “laser beam” is when a excited atoms collide with neighbouring atoms to release photons. These photons are where the magic happens. Laser light is made up of only one wavelength of light hence consists of only one colour. The emitted light is coherent, which means that light waves travel at the same frequency and have constant phase difference. This property is what enables laser beams to focus at one point unlike light from a bulb that diverges. 3. Laser beams have different intensities depending upon the amount of energy of the excited atoms involved in the stimulation process. This energy determines how intense the resultant emitted photons hence the laser light will be. The more intense the beam, the less safe it is. They are grouped from Class 1 being the safest, to Class 4 being the most intense. Class 1 lasers cannot produce dangerous electromagnetic radiation at all. They are used for day-to-day applications such as printing, whereas class 2 lasers produce visible beams. They are relatively safe but could cause eye damage if viewed for a prolonged period of time without protection. They are used in laser pointers. Class 3 lasers are more hazardous with an output power of more than 5 milliwatts. Guaranteed damage is realised when viewed with telescopes, magnifying glass,...