14 May Laser Applications and Technologies. What the Future Looks Like?
Nowadays, many of our achievements are based on laser technology and it forming our life without peeing present in public. Thanks to this universal tool as well as the countless, enthusiastic and talented scientist and engineers, young and old, many new applications will emerge. Here follows a tiny selection of “hot” laser applications and technologies and their way how they will or already have shaped our recent future.
Laser shock peening
Laser shock peening the laser-assisted equivalent to the well established shot-peening with the advantage that the surface roughness is much smoother due to the absence of any mass-bound projectile (balls). This technology is used to improve fatigue life time of for instance turbine blades, springs or bearing shells. But also the resilience of turbine axles in power plants can be significantly enhanced. Thus, it can be used for all parts experiencing a dynamic and/or fast change of high loads. State of the art diode pumped solid state laser systems suited for this application are generating 5-15 Joules of energy in a 5-15 ns long pulse with a homogeneous intensity distribution. Moreover, they can come with square or hexagonal beam-profiles for a seamless process.
Short pulsed laser systems in the pico-second and femto-second regime are seeing growing demands from the industry. The applications seem almost infinite reaching from surface structuring with the aim of preventing leaving fingerprints or creating water-repellent layers up to drilling holes without leaving material depositions on the outer edges. Here manufacturers are creating increasingly sophisticated control electronics to give customers a pulse-2-pulse control of their laser system with manipulation speeds in the MHz-regime. All with the ultimate goal to reach the total process control.
LiDAR was invented back in 1961 short after T.H. Maiman build his first laser. It is a technique attracting a lot of interest in the recent years due to the steep rise in demand caused by autonomous driving cars and drive assistance systems. But not only in the automotive industry such systems are in high demand, also earth observation and agriculture as well as archeology take advantage of the more and more versatile, ready to use products available on the market. Different technologically attempts as like flash LiDAR, scanning or steering LiDAR and phase modulation continuous wave LiDAR are some among others are followed to achieve compact, robust and reliable modules.
Material processing in blue
With the advent of blue edge-emitting laser diode bars and thus a cost-effective access to high-energy photons for material processing, market leaders started to explore additive manufacturing processes made for Cu and the red-metals. Being able to laser-weld copper and other metals, as for instance gold, opens a shire immense field of applications for the (power) electronics industry. Especially, with the rise of electric cars the desire to automatize battery manufacturing has come to the fore for many automobile manufacturers and affiliated industries.
Tunable VIS/MIR laser sources
For many years the main field of laser-based activities took place in the near infrared region of light (800-2500 nm) slightly changing with the invention of super-continuum laser sources or the practical access to sum and difference frequency mixing in OPOs or OPAs. These laser sources started to explore the visible spectrum of light as well as the mid infrared one. Not only biologists but also medical professionals got a great tool in their hands and different high resolution, high contrast spectroscopy applications started to create interest among them. The tunability of laser sources enables scientists to create versatile and compact set-ups to study cells, tissues, medical treatments and improve drug developments, all to achieve a higher quality of living.
For sure there are plenty of other laser technologies and applications out there, which also may be more important for humanity, but this note is way too short to cover all of them.