Laser Essay

This essay has a total of 1120 words and 5 pages.

laser



There are only about 100 different kinds of atoms in the entire universe. Everything we
see is made up of these 100 atoms in an unlimited number of combinations. They
continuously vibrate, move and rotate. Even the atoms that make up the chairs that we sit
in are moving around in class. Atoms can be in “different states of excitation”
(Bertolotti 48) or they can have different energies. If we apply a lot of energy to an
atom, it can leave what is called the ground-state energy level and go to an excited
level. The level of excitation depends on the amount of energy that is applied to the atom
by heat, light, or electricity.

An atom consists of a nucleus (containing the protons and neutrons) and an electron cloud.
The electrons in this cloud “circle the nucleus in many different orbits” (Bertolotti 51).
In other words, if we apply some heat to an atom, we might expect that some of the
electrons in the lower energy orbital would shift to higher energy orbitals further away
from the nucleus. Once an electron moves to a higher-energy orbit, it eventually wants to
return to the ground state. When it does, it releases its energy as a photon, a particle
of light. You see atoms releasing energy as photons all the time. For example, when the
wires in a toaster turns bright red, the red color is caused by atoms, excited by heat,
releasing red photons. When you see a picture on a TV, what you are seeing is atoms,
excited by high-speed electrons, emitting different colors of light. Anything that
produces light, such as fluorescent lights and bulbs, does it through the “action of
electrons changing orbits and releasing photons” (Bertolotti 51).

A laser is a device that controls the way energized atoms release photons that had ever
been seen before 1960. Theodore H. Maiman of United States mounted a “specially prepared a
rod of ruby inside a powerful flash lamp” (Hecht) similar to the type used for high-speed
photography. The laser age was born. Within a very short time, in addition to many more
solid state materials, laser action was demonstrated in liquids, semiconductor crystals,
and other forms. Although there are many types of lasers, all have certain essential
features. In a laser, the “lasing medium is pumped to get the atoms into an excited state”
(Bertolotti 65). Usually, very intense flashes of light or “electrical discharges pump the
lasing medium and create a large collection of excited-state atoms” (Bertolotti 71). It is
necessary to have a large collection of atoms in the excited state for the laser to work
efficiently. In general, the atoms are excited to a level that is two or three levels
above the ground state. This increases the degree of population inversion. The population
inversion is the number of atoms in the excited state versus the ground state. Once the
lasing medium is pumped, it contains a collection of atoms with some electrons sitting in
excited levels. The excited electrons have energies greater than the more relaxed
electrons. Just as the electron absorbed some amount of energy to reach this excited
level, it can also” release this energy, as the electron can simply relax and in turn rid
itself of some energy” (Bertolotti 73). This emitted energy comes in the form of photons.
The photon emitted has a very specific wavelength (color) that depends on the state the
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