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24 June 2013

Six amazing things to do with lasers

First cleaning test on a gilded brass panel of the Florence's
Baptistery North Door by Lorenzo Ghiberti. This masterpiece
is under restoration at the Opificio delle Pietre Dure in Florence.
Lasers are in the news as usual, this time inspiring a list of what Lewis Carroll’s White Queen might have characterized as "six impossible things” to be believed before breakfast. But thanks to optics and photonics, these things are all possible with the help of lasers:

(1) Removing layers of pollution from centuries-old decorative plasters as well as marble and bronze statues.
Laser techniques development supported by the TEMART and CHARISMA projects at the Istituto di Fisica Applicata ‘Nello Carrara’ – Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (IFAC-CNR) have enabled restoration of such masterpieces as Donatello's Profet Abacuc, the Etruscan masterpiece Arringatore from the Trasimene Lake, wall paintings such as the painting of the Santa Maria della Scala museum complex in Siena and the catacombs of Rome, and the Florence Baptistery's North Door, a gilded-brass masterpiece by Lorenzo Ghiberti.

(2) Getting clear,detailed pictures of distant objects in space.
NPR has reported on how astronomers are using adaptive optics systems on computers to analyze the light coming in from a star, to decode the “noise” to render crisp images from the telescope images blurred by travelling through the atmosphere. (Video [6:41]: "New vistas in adaptive optics"). 

(3) Healing the living eye.
The NPR report also notes that researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, are following the same principles to develop a way to see into the living eye and even heal damaged retinas using light.

(4) Recreating the fusion conditions inside our sun to provide a sustainable new energy source to meet the growing demands of Earthlings.
Nuclear fusion, the process that powers the sun, has the potential to provide an effectively inexhaustible source of energy. The challenge is to create here on Earth the conditions that exist in the sun's core. Several methods of harnessing fusion power have been put forth, with the primary ones confining a plasma magnetically or inertially. Researchers at the U.S. Naval Research Lab are among those contributing ideas, as the U.S. National Ignition Facility moves toward proof of principle, and the European HiPER Project and the LIFE project in the U.S. work toward developing power supply networks based on the technology.

(5) Building airplane parts (and human body parts!) “grown from the ground up” through additive manufacturing (Video [5:34]).
Lighter-weight and better-performing airline parts are being built layer-by-layer by GE Aviation in a 3D printing process, and researchers at the University of Iowa are reporting on a biomanufacturing lab to “create functional human organs.”

(6) Storing the equivalent of 50,000 HD movies on a single DVD.
Researchers from Swinburne University of Technology and CSIRO in Australia have described using lasers at the nano level – one ten-thousandth the diameter of a human hair – to increase the number of points on a storage device and thus the amount of data it can hold. That's big data!

1 comment:

  1. All good except the fusion spin.

    Fusion is great but we can't have an inexhaustible source of energy on Earth without global warming. The power mostly becomes heat that cannot escape fast enough.

    ReplyDelete