Skip to main content

The laser: a solution looking for problems?

This is just the sort of thing Theodore Maiman said he had in mind when was interviewed 50 years ago, after being the first to successfully demonstrate the laser: medical procedures that would change or even save lives in ways as yet unimagined.

This time, the laser has been used to perform surgery on an unborn fetus.

Surgeons at the University of Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital reported they have performed the first-ever in utero surgery on a fetus. A rare tumor diagnosed about halfway through the pregnancy via ultrasound was removed from the roof of the mouth using laesr technology. A few months later, the baby was born at full-term and healthy.

Never mind that one newspaper at the time called Maiman’s pioneering ruby laser “a solution in search of a problem.” Applications have been developed in nearly every facet of life, and the list of medical solutions that lasers provide is impressive.

Starting from the beginning, medical applications of lasers were life-enhancing -- removing a birthmark known as port-wine stain -- as well as life-saving -- treating skin cancer. Eye surgery was another early application, as IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center's James Wynne told SPIE.tv in a recent video.

Today lasers are used widely in several medical fields:
  • dermatology: removing tattoos and hair as well as life-threatening tumors
  • ophthalmology: restoring vision by repairing the lens, reattaching a damaged retina or creating a prosthetic retina
  • oncology: treating cancer through photodynamic therap, and diagnosing tumors are earlier and earlier stages for better patient recovery results
  • surgery, dentistry, veterinary medicine and numerous other therapeutic as well as diagnostic applications.

… not to mention wide-ranging nonmedical applications:
  • laser guide stars for astronomical observations
  • lasers for manufacturing everything from smartphones to lumber
  • fiber optic laser systems for broadcasting the internet
  • smart-car technology to detect people or objects behind the vehicle, nondestructive testing of bridges, laser light shows … and much more.

What will the laser do next? Plenty! For example, lasers are enabling new personalized medicine regimens with treatments tailored to an individual’s particular genomes, and hold promise to provide abundant clean energy through the process of fusion.

Hear first-hand from more than three dozen laser experts about what the laser can do and what’s next in a series of videos celebrating the recent 50th anniversary of technology -- and hear from Miles Padgett (University of Glasgow) about the latest in optical tweezers for manipulating light and John Dudley (Univ. de Franche-Comté, CNRS Institut FEMTO-ST) on new directions in nonlinear optics, in ongoing video coverage on SPIE.tv.

Ted Maiman was among visionaries honored in a tribute display shown during the 2010 observance of the 50th anniversary of laser technology. Photo: Theodore Harold Maiman - © Bettmann/CORBIS.

Comments

  1. I need to know the properties of the Gaussian Beam (specially mode radius) inside a Z shaped optical resonator in which the first and fourth mirrors are planar while the second and third mirrors are curved.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

#FacesofPhotonics: Inspired

Guest blogger: Emily Power is a Winter Quarter graduate in communications from Western Washington University, and most recently social media intern for SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics. She is blogging on responses to the SPIE #FacesofPhotonics campaign, to share the stories of SPIE students around the globe.
It is a commonly known fact: students are the future. Around the world, students with ideas, opinions, and innovative minds are preparing for their opportunities to conceptualize and create the next advances for the ever-changing world in which we live.
In the field of optics and photonics, students are making a difference even now, sharing their work and building their networks through conferences such as SPIE Photonics West, coming up next month in San Francisco.
The SPIE campaign #FacesofPhotonics was developed as a showcase across social media to connect students from SPIE Student Chapters around the world, highlighting similarities, celebrating differ…

Grilling robot takes over backyard barbecue

Photonics has already made profound contributions to such areas as medicine, energy, and communications to make our everyday lives more efficient. (Hence the name of this blog.) People in all walks of life benefit from the incorporation of photonics technologies. We look forward to future advancements when the technology may help find a cure for cancer, monitor and prevent climate change, and pave the way to other advancements we can’t even visualize yet.
But here’s a photonics-based invention -- already demonstrated – that breaks ground in a new area: the backyard barbecue. Talk about hot fun in the summertime!
The BratWurst Bot made its appearance at the Stallwächter-Party of the Baden-Württemberg State Representation in Berlin. It’s made of off-the-shelf robotic components such as the lightweight Universal Robots arm UR-10, a standard parallel gripper (Schunk PG-70) and standard grill tongs. A tablet-based chef’s face interacted with party guests.
Two RGB cameras and a segmentatio…

UPDATE! Gravitational waves ... detected!

Update, 11 February: A hundred years after Einstein predicted them, gravitational waves from a cataclysmic event a billion years ago have been observed.
For the first time, scientists have observed gravitational waves, ripples in the fabric of spacetime arriving at Earth from a cataclysmic event in the distant universe. This confirms a major prediction of Albert Einstein's 1915 general theory of relativity and opens an unprecedented new window to the cosmos.
The discovery was announced on 11 February at a press conference in Washington, DC, hosted by the National Science Foundation, the primary funder of the Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO).
The gravitational waves were produced during the final fraction of a second of the merger of two black holes to produce a single, more massive spinning black hole. This collision of two black holes had been predicted but never observed.
The event took place on 14 September 2015 at 5:51 a.m. EDT (09:51 UTC) by both of…