Adventures of the CO2 laser

On the subject of the CO2 laser, I will borrow a line from the great satirist Mark Twain, who responded to a newspaper inquiry in 1897 by writing, "The report of my death was an exaggeration."

Conardmug 2011c

On the subject of the CO2 laser, I will borrow a line from the great satirist Mark Twain, who responded to a newspaper inquiry in 1897 by writing, "The report of my death was an exaggeration." It's true that, in terms of sales of lasers for industrial processing, the fiber laser has some undeniable advantages and a growing market share, while CO2 laser sales are projected to trend slightly down over the coming years. Yet the volume of industrial sales is not the only measure of its technical or market value

Our cover story this month demonstrates some of the virtues of the CO2 laser, building on a heritage that dates back to 1965 at Bell Labs (see page 29). The authors, from Access Laser, describe very current applications in the processing of new materials such as multilayer plastics, as the source to produce plasma for EUV lithography, as a new tool for hard and soft tissue dentistry, and as a key element at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory. So while fiber lasers and high-power laser diodes are the lasers of the moment, CO2 lasers still have a lot of life left in them.

Speaking of legacy photonics tools that are still critical in today's applications, we have two articles on devices and systems that have been mainstays since the 1970s. Senior Editor John Wallace surveys important alignment and other applications that rely on position-sensing detectors (see page 39), and how to test the performance of interferometers is the topic of our Optical Engineering Exchange article from Äpre Instruments (see page 33). Finally, a feature from Clerio Vision reveals the future of vision correction with ophthalmic surgery that uses a femtosecond laser to induce refractive index change in the cornea (see page 45). Indeed, past and future photonics seem to exist quite comfortably together.

Conardmug 2011cConard Holton
Associate Publisher/
Editor in Chief

[email protected]

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