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Laser

The Whispering Gallery in St. Paul's Cathedral (Image: Femtoquake /CC 3.0)

Researchers led by Professor Stephen Arnold at Polytechnic Institute of New York University have developed a new ultra-sensitive biosensor. Currently undergoing commercial development, the sensor is designed to inexpensively identify viruses in a doctor’s office within a matter of minutes instead of the weeks needed by conventional techniques ... and it can detect even the smallest RNA virus particle, MS2, which weighs only six attograms (10-18 grams).  Read More

Details of ChemCam (Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech/LANL)

NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has already fired its laser over 500 times as it studies its surroundings as engineers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) calibrate its sensors. In a classic example of “waste not, want not” Curiosity concentrated its activity on a patch of rocks that were uncovered by the rocket backwash of the sky crane that delivered the unmanned explorer to the Martian surface on August 6.  Read More

Artist's concept of Curiosity using laser (Image: NASA)

NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity has fired its laser for the first time. Its target wasn’t attacking Martians, but a 7 cm (2.75 inch) wide rock called “Coronation” (AKA N165) about 10 feet (3 m) from the rover. Curiosity’s laser fired 30 pulses over a ten-second interval, hitting Coronation with one million watts for five-one billionths of a second. As tiny bits of Coronation vaporized into a glowing plasma, Curiosity's ChemCam analyzed the stone’s makeup by means of a telescope and three spectrometers.  Read More

The core of the new solid state maser (Photo: National Physics Laboratory)

Everyone has heard of lasers, but hardly anyone outside of a physics lab or a science fiction novel has heard of a maser. Despite the fact that it was the precursor of the laser, the maser has been something of a technological backwater because masers are difficult to build and expensive to operate. That, however, may be changing. In the August 16 issue of Nature, a team of scientists from Britain’s National Physics Laboratory and Imperial College, London led by Dr. Mark Oxborrow report that they have created the first solid state maser that operates at room temperature, paving the way toward the widespread practical application of the technology.  Read More

The BELLA laser during construction at Berkeley Lab. It recently delivered a record-breaki...

Not even a month since researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's National Ignition Facility (NIF) announced a 500 trillion watt laser shot, researchers at the Berkeley Lab Laser Accelerator (BELLA) have managed to deliver a record-breaking petawatt, that is, a quadrillion watts, in a pulse just 40 femtoseconds long at a rate of one pulse every second. To put that in perspective, a petawatt is more than the combined output of all electric power plants in the world at any given time and one femtosecond is a quadrillionth of a second.  Read More

The University of Tennessee's regenerative amplifier, used to amplify femtosecond laser pu...

University of Tennessee researchers have developed a super fast laser procedure that could serve as a non-invasive treatment of cancer, particularly when the disease is located in the brain. The new technology was developed at the University’s Center for Laser Applications, and it works by seeking and destroying cancerous tumors.  Read More

The VARIES starship creates its own antimatter for interstellar voyages

As Douglas Adams said, “Space is Big. Really Big." And that’s the major obstacle for travelling between the stars. But a new proposal published in the Journal of the British Interplanetary Society promises to shrink that distance just a bit. Physics and technology consultant Richard Obousy claims that an antimatter starship that creates its own fuel from the vacuum of space itself would be capable of making a return journey to the nearest star and back within one lifetime.  Read More

500 terawatt shot -  The preamplifiers of the National Ignition Facility (Photo: Damien Je...

Researchers at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's National Ignition Facility (NIF) have achieved a laser shot which boggles the mind: 192 beams delivered an excess of 500 trillion-watts (TW) of peak power and 1.85 megajoules (MJ) of ultraviolet laser light to a target of just two millimeters in diameter. To put those numbers into perspective, 500 TW is more than one thousand times the power that the entire United States uses at any instant in time. Pew-Pew indeed ...  Read More

The flight time of the Stalker UAS has been improved by 2,400 percent using a wireless las...

Late last year, DARPA researchers upped the standard two-hour endurance of Lockheed Martin’s Stalker small unmanned aerial system (UAS) by a factor of four using a propane-fueled compact solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC). Now the flight time of the aircraft has been improved by a whopping 2,400 percent, with a test flight lasting more than 48 hours using a laser power system to wirelessly transfer power to the UAS from the ground.  Read More

A lightning bolt travels horizontally down a plasma channel from the LIPC before deviating...

Thought that title might get your attention, but shooting lightning bolts down laser beams is just what a device being developed at the Picatinny Arsenal military research facility in New Jersey is designed to do. Known as a Laser-Induced Plasma Channel, or LIPC, the device would fry targets that conduct electricity better that the air or ground that surrounds them by steering lightning bolts down a plasma pathway created by laser beams.  Read More

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