Tag: laser

Canon raises its aim

Japan’s Canon lifted its full year operating profit forecast after reporting strong first-quarter results on the back of earnings from a medical equipment unit it bought from Toshiba last year.

The camera and printer maker forecast profit of $2.43 billion, up from $2.28 billion estimated in January. It reported profit of $2.05 billion in the previous year

The upbeat outlook suggests Canon’s strategy to diversify has begun to reward the company after the $5.8 billion acquisition of the Toshiba unit and the $2.8 billion takeover of Swedish video-surveillance firm Axis AB.

Canon also said the two existing businesses that have long dragged its earnings down – laser printers and cameras – are also showing signs of bottoming out.

Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Toshizo Tanaka told an earnings briefing that recovery in the Chinese and other emerging economies is pushing up demand for laser printers, while continued popularity of so-called mirrorless cameras is driving camera sales.

For the January-March quarter, Canon said operating profit jumped 88.8 percent

Boffins create disposable lasers

White laserFrench Researchers have worked out a way of creating cheap lasers with an inkjet printer which can be thrown away after it’s been used once.

Sébastien Sanaur, an associate professor in the Center of Microelectronics in Provence at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Mines de Saint-Étienne in France said that the low cost and easiness of laser chip fabrication are the most significant aspects of his teams results.

Organic lasers are not as common as inorganic lasers, like those found in laser pointers, DVD players, and optical mice, but they offer benefits such as high-yield photonic conversion, easy fabrication, low-cost and a wide range of wavelengths.

One obstacle that has held back organic lasers they degrade quickly – but that hurdle might be less daunting if the lasers are so cheap they could be thrown out when they fail.

The researchers used two different types of dyes to produce laser emission ranging from yellow to deep red. The ink was printed in small square shapes onto a quartz slide.

The dyed ink acted as the core of the laser, called a gain medium.  A gain medium amplifies light and produces the characteristically narrow, single-colour laser beam.

A laser also requires mirrors to reflect light back and forth through the gain medium and an energy source, called a pump, to keep the light amplification going. The disposable part of the new laser is the printed gain medium, which the researchers call the ‘lasing capsule.’

The researches could build one for only a few cents.  The lasing capsule could be easily swapped out when it deteriorates.

Graphene could create a computer brain

mybrainhurtsFlakes of graphene might be the the key to building computer chips that can processes information similar to human brain does – not your brain of course, or mine, but a better class of brain .

The technology is centred on neuromorphic chips which are made up of networks of transistors that interact the way human neurons do. This means that they can process analog input, such as visual information, quicker and more accurately than traditional chips.

Bhavin Shastri, a postdoctoral fellow in electrical engineering at Princeton University said that one way of building such transistors is to construct them of lasers that rely on an encoding approach called “spiking.”

Depending on the input, the laser can provide a brief spike in its output of photons or not respond at all. Instead of using the on or off state of the transistor to represent the 1s and 0s of digital data, these neural transistors rely on the time intervals between spikes.

Shastri said: “We’re essentially using time as a way of encoding information. Computation is based on the spatial and temporal positions of the pulses. This is sort of the fundamental way neurons communicate with other neurons.”

Shastris work with Lawrence Chen, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at McGill University, is trying to get the laser to spike at picosecond time scales which are one trillionth of a second.

They managed to do this by putting a tiny piece of graphene inside a semiconductor laser. The graphene acts as a “saturable absorber,” soaking up photons and then emitting them in a quick burst.

Graphene is a good saturable absorber because it can take up and release a lot of photons extremely fast, and it works at any wavelength.It also stands up very well to all the energy produced inside a laser.


Japanese boffins create Star Trek hologram Christmas lights

Aubrey Beardsley's Ali BabaA Japanese team has emerged from their smoke filled labs with a Star Trek style 3D volumetric display that you can actually touch by zapping the air until it glows using a laser.

The hologram has a million and one uses but one which is appropriate this week is to create a set of Christmas lights which cannot be destroyed by the cat. So far 3D holograms have used a high-power laser which heats a spot in the air until it ionises and glows with a bright blue light. This would be cat proof but would probably ionise the cat, or any small child which touches them.

The Japanese boffins worked out that if you used a really fast laser, a femtosecond laser, that heats a small spot to a high temperature but only for a very short time. This is much safer because the total energy involved is smaller. You can touch sparks without getting burned.

So far the “holograms” are small very small – Christmas tree light sized.

The system could be scaled up and be used in entertainment or in augmented reality systems. If you are thinking of the sort of “hard light” projector that created holograms in Star Trek.

OLED already outclassed by lasers

pink-floyd-dark-side-of-the-moon-wallpaper-2LG might be a little miffed. After betting the farm on OLED it seems a boffin has come up with a much better technology.

Popular Science dubbed it one of the top breakthroughs of 2015, the world’s first white laser. Professor Cun-Zheng Ning has been working on the invention for nearly a decade.

Thing is that LEDs are limited on the number of colours they can generate. However lasers can represent any colours in a more accurate way.

What he had to do was grow a semiconductor on a nano scale. Ning’s semiconductor produces a red, blue, and green laser, that merge into a white laser.

He also demonstrated that a single piece of material can actually have laser actions simultaneously so that the overall light coming out is white.

Three lasers produce the white laser beam and producing more than 70 percent more colors. Each razor-thin laser would be just one pixel on a screen.

“That was really exciting when you put a laser TV side-by-side, with the best LCD or LED TV, and there’s no comparison, the kind of colour you see is immediately so vivid,” said Ning.

White laser could also be used to transmit data, it would improve communications speeds making them faster and more secure.

A homemade laser can kill a self-driving car

accidentcarinwashingtondcA homemade laser can disable the systems that allow self driving cars to see.

According to security expert Jonathan Petit a modified, low-cost laser could create ghostlike objects in the path of autonomous cars which causes the cars to slowed down to avoid hitting them.

If enough phantom objects were created, the car would stop completely.

Petit, principal boffin at software company Security Innovation, used a laser, similar to a mass-market laser pen and added a pulse generator – something that can be created using a low-cost computer such as the Raspberry Pi.

It cost $60 and created phantom cars, walls and pedestrians to fool the “eyes” of self-drive cars – known as lidars.  Lidars are a combination of light and radar and illuminate a target with a laser and analysing the reflected light, to measure distance and map out where objects are.

Petit claimed he could spoof thousands of objects and basically carry out a denial of service attack on the tracking system so it’s not able to track real objects.

He could also take echoes of fake cars and put them at any location I want,” he added.

Petit targeted the lidars produced by IBEO Lux but was keen to point out that it is not a problem just for them.

He said that none of the lidar manufacturers thought about the problem.

His paper, written while he was a research fellow at the University of Cork’s computer security group, will be presented at the Black Hat Europe conference in November.


Boffins uses lasers to make fruit flies moonwalk

Boffins from the Vienna University of Technology and US researchers have hatched out a plan to control fruit flies with lasers.

We are not sure of what inspired someone from a university to think “the world would be a better place if we could control fruit flies” and then to think “what would happen if I fried the beggars with a laser”.

According to RedOrbit, after taking that initial inspiration, that same boffin convinced his chums at the Information Management and Preservation Lab within the Department of Software Technology and Interactive Systems at VUT to develop something called FlyMAD (Fly Mind Altering Device) which targets either light or heat to a specific body region of a fly that is in motion, triggering a response.

FlyMAD has allowed the boffins to zero in on two specific neuronal cell types that deal with courtship behaviour of the fruit fly. So when a male fly is just getting his box of chocolates and floral tie ready for his first date he has his neural pathways fried with a laser and made them moonwalk. It also stuffed up their courtship song.

FlyMAD, unlike previous techniques used in this field, provides researchers with a much more highly improved temporal resolution of their subject animals.

The entire system basically consists of an enclosed box in which the flies are housed. A video camera, can track several flies at once, captures the motion of the flies. The flies are then subjected to targeted irradiation that effectively allows the researchers to alter neural pathways.

The results of this study, which could potentially yield new and further insight into the mammalian brain, was published online on May 25 in the journal Nature Methods.

Of course it is not clear when scientists will be turning their lasers onto dating humans. We will know when they start to think that moonwalking is a good way to pick up members of the opposite sex. 

US Navy deploys its first laser

The US Navy is going to deploy its first on ship laser next year and has been showing one in action on YouTube.

It is the first ever ship-mounted laser, a disruptive, cutting-edge weapon capable of obliterating small boats and unmanned aerial vehicles with a blast of infrared energy.

They are designed to tackle one of the biggest headaches for capital ships – massed fleets of small boats, like pirates or the Iranian navy. Suicide attacks on bigger boats by such smaller fleets can do a lot of damage because they are harder to hit with conventional weapons.

The shipboard laser which will be installed in early 2014, is a solid-state laser prototype. It will become part of the weaponry of the unfortunately named USS Ponce and packed off to the 5th fleet region in the Middle East.

A Navy press release video shows the laser locks onto an unmanned drone, which bursts aflame in mid-flight. The drone soon catches fire and crashes into the sea below.

These are exactly the sort of small surveillance drones that Iran uses. The Navy says the laser can also take out the small, armoured speed boats that Iran also favours.

Navy researchers say the laser destroys its targets all the time. It can also be used to send non-lethal pulses to boats too.

Rear Admiral Matthew Klunder, chief of Naval Research said that each gun cost $32 million to produce. But it only costs a dollar every time you fire it.

The US Navy has done a little better than the Air Force which recently cancelled project to put nose-mounted lasers on its aircraft.

But there are some concerns that the laser cannot fire in poor weather conditions. It is not certain if it can hit faster moving objects, such as fighters. Its power is too low to hit cruise missiles.

US warship blows up kayak with high-energy laser

The US Navy has used a laser gun to blow up a boat at sea.

A warship equipped with a high-energy laser, or HEL, not HEK, has targeted a test boat off the coast of California and set its engines on fire. The idea is that HELs mounted on warships could keep smaller attack boats at bay – we guess including  protecting Guybrush Threepwood and his crew around the Horn of Africa.

The BBC says that HELs have been used before, but they’ve focused on shooting  down missiles or attacking land-lubbers. But effectively using a high energy laser at sea has proved difficult. Auntie has a video here.

Although lasers as a weapon have been researched by the US for some time, they were clunky systems which emitted chemical waste. Moist sea air meant lasers fired on water were less powerful. 

It is early days yet. The Office of Naval Research says there is a lot that needs to be done before lasers can be both efficient and safe at sea. But the first shot fired “provides an important data point as we move toward putting directed energy on warships.”

Peter Morrison from The Office of Naval Research didn’t say anything about having the best job in the world but we can say with the efficiency of a 1970s prototype he’s probably thinking it.

Scientists develop laser-beam steering system for quantum computing

Scientists have developed a laser-beam steering system which is able to aim and focus burst onto specific atoms which will provide uses within quantum computers.

The steering system, developed by collaborating researchers at Duke University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is thought to be similar to laser light show you might find at a planetarium, conjuring an image of a Jean-Michel Jarre gig on an atomic scale.

However the technology used is smaller, faster and aimed at the future of computing rather than lighting up random locations across the globe such as the Pyramids, to a background of nauseating trance music like Mr Jarre, 62, would do.

Quantum computers are able to solve complex and important problems if their basic elements, named qubits, remain in a special state of quantum entanglement for a long enough time for the calculations to be carried out before information is lost due to natural fluctuations.

The new steering is one of several approaches to quantum computing which use arrays of individual atoms suspended by electromagnetic forces. Pulses of laser light are used to manipulate the internal states of the atoms that represent the qubits to carry out the calculation.

However the lasers must also be focused and aimed in a perfectly accurate way, so that light meant for one atom doesn’t affect other nearby atoms.

The steering system was crucially able to focus on the exact atoms without disturbing others.  It uses tiny micromirrors – roughly twice the size of a human hair in diameter – which are able to target each atom in just 5 microseconds.  This is approximately 1,000 times faster than the most sophisticated beam steering mirrors that have been developed for optical communications switching, and certainly faster than a concert light show.

The scientists saw that the laser pulses were able to correctly manipulate the quantum properties of each target atom at these speeds, in this case a line of five rubidium-87 atoms, while avoiding any disturbance of other molecules at all times which would only be 8.7 microns away, the equivalent to one-tenth the diameter of a human hair.

“Our experiments demonstrated the crucial requirement that our micromirror system maintain the laser-beam quality necessary to manipulate the internal states of the individual atoms,” said Jungsang Kim, leader of the Duke researchers who designed the micromirror system.

The group has further plans to continue the work at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with the ambition of developing two-qubit gates – expected to be the basic building block of quantum logic – and atoms confined in larger two-dimensional arrays.  A video to show how the technology would work with a 5×5 array can be seen here.