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Laser weapons

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Could you really pop a house-sized batch of popcorn with a laser beam like a fiendish band of tech geeks did in the movie Real Genius? Will we ever have lightsabers like Luke Skywalker? Who will fulfill Dr. Evil’s simple request to have sharks with frickin’ laser beams attached to their heads? Real-life laser weapons are slowly making their way from the laboratory to the battlefield, whether underwater, in space, on the ground, or shooting down missiles from the air. Still, they are far from being agile or easy to handle. A laser weapons engineer sheds light, so to speak, on the sober life of military laser weapons research and why the ultimate laser weapon remains a Hollywood and military fantasy…for now.

Published in: Technology, Business
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Laser weapons

  1. 1. Where’s My Laser Shark? Laser Weapons Demystified Nerd Nite November 12, 2010 Olivia Koski
  2. 2. The Ultimate Laser Weapon “Now all we have to do is build it.” – Real Genius (1985) http://www.oliviakoski.com
  3. 3. Incoherent Versus Coherent Light 50 Watt bulb = harmless 50 Watt laser = DANGER! Irradiance = Power / Area Dime radius = 0.895 cm Irradiance = 50 Watts* / p r2 Safest exposure for 1 second of green beam = 0.03 J/cm2 20 W/cm2 or 20 J/cm2 for 1 second For a focused beam at 0.05 cm, that’s 6,366 J/cm2 *Laser Weapon = 100,000 W OUCH! http://www.oliviakoski.com
  4. 4. Semiconductors Lasers What Do You Mean By Laser? http://www.oliviakoski.com
  5. 5. What Do You Mean By Laser? Chemical Lasers Free Electron Lasers (Requires Particle Accelerator) Jefferson Laboratory Gas Laser (like Helium-Neon) http://www.oliviakoski.com
  6. 6. What Do You Mean By Laser? The chemical laser is the most powerful laser weapon Solid state lasers weapons are more compact but less powerful than chemical laser weapons Textron Northrop Grumman http://www.oliviakoski.com
  7. 7. Some Quick Laser Physics E = mc2 DE = hn = hc/l h = Plank’s constant v = frequency l= wavelength c = the speed of light DE = hn http://www.oliviakoski.com
  8. 8. How to Build a Laser LASER = Light Amplification through Stimulated Emission Radiation Get a laser rod (your gain medium) Add pump powerPut on your laser goggles Put mirrors around itPut mirrors around it http://www.oliviakoski.com
  9. 9. The Real Genius Popcorn Fantasy http://www.oliviakoski.com
  10. 10. The Multi-Billion Dollar Reality http://www.oliviakoski.com
  11. 11. The Real-life Missile Shoot Down The Airborne Laser Shot down a missile on February 11, 2010 off the coast of California http://www.oliviakoski.com
  12. 12. A Flaw in the Laser Science of Real Genius The real Airborne Laser is actually invisible (1315 nm) http://www.oliviakoski.com
  13. 13. Ray Guns versus Light Sabers When was the last time soldiers had a sword fight? Soldiers still shoot at each other all the time. http://www.oliviakoski.com
  14. 14. An Elegant Weapon For A More Civilized Age? “Not as clumsy or random as a blaster.” Obi-Wan Kenobi http://www.oliviakoski.com
  15. 15. A laser makes a much better gun than a sword. Just saying. But there are still major flaws in the laser science of Star Wars: silly noises and random visible wavelengths http://www.oliviakoski.com
  16. 16. The U.S. Air Force Built a Non-Lethal Laser Gun Personnel Halting and Stimulation Response Rifle (PHaSR) Low power Infrared and Visible lasers It will not hurt you, but it will startle you temporarily “PHaSR, or Personnel Halting and Stimulation Response, is a rifle sized counter personnel nonlethal laser weapon system. PHaSR achieves the desired degree of protection through the synergistic application of two non-lethal laser wavelengths during the course of protection activities that will deter, prevent, or mitigate an adversary’s effectiveness. The laser light from PHaSR temporarily impairs aggressors by “dazzling” them with one wavelength. The second wavelength causes a repel effect that discourages advancing aggressors.” –U.S. Air Force http://www.oliviakoski.com
  17. 17. This is not an elegant weapon for a more civilized age 1 Watt 445 nm made by Wicked Laser - $300 But it can hurt you! Especially your eyes – wear goggles! No plans to issue these to soldiers any time soon. It’s a novelty. http://www.oliviakoski.com
  18. 18. Okay, so what about those laser sharks? http://www.oliviakoski.com
  19. 19. Seriously, It Wouldn’t Be That Difficult. http://www.flickr.com/photos/the-lees/134610871/in/photostream/ 500 mW green laser for $2000 1. Buy a green laser 2. Design a head piece 3. Hire a trained professional to attach it to the shark* * I don’t actually recommend doing this but it is technically quite possible http://www.oliviakoski.com
  20. 20. How Well Would The Shark’s Laser Move Through Water? Hot air makes giraffes look all wonky because it acts like a bunch of little tiny lenses. FACT: Light interacts with matter Water absorbs light green ~ 510 nm High Absorption Low Absorption Green is not a bad choice for a shark laser http://www.oliviakoski.com
  21. 21. But Lasers Are Perfect For Space There is less pesky matter in space to mess up your laser http://www.oliviakoski.com
  22. 22. Lasers In Space, Underwater, or In the Air Are Still Dangerous To Your Eyes Always wear your goggles! Danger Zone 400 nm 1400 nm Light penetrates eyeball, can damage the retina light is absorbed by cornea, lens light is absorbed by cornea, lens http://www.oliviakoski.com
  23. 23. The Most Important Thing About A Laser Weapon Is Power On Target It’s all about Beam Quality Good Laser Bad Laser Bad Laser http://www.oliviakoski.com
  24. 24. This Is What Happens When BQ Is Good Boeing’s Advanced Tactical Laser lights the hood of a truck on fire http://www.oliviakoski.com
  25. 25. Why Laser Weapons Are Like Ninjas Invisible Silent Deadly http://www.oliviakoski.com
  26. 26. Thanks! http://www.oliviakoski.com Learn About 3D Printing: http://www.makerbot.com Follow me on twitter: http://twitter.com/oliviakoski Find out what Nerds in New York do from the Urban Scientist: http://www.scienceline.org/ A special thanks to all of the Laser Safety Officers out there and all of my colleagues and friends in Boulder, Boston, and Sunnyvale http://www.oliviakoski.com
  27. 27. Appendix
  28. 28. Eye damage • 180–315 nm (UV-B, UV-C) photokeratitis (inflammation of the cornea, equivalent to sunburn) • 315–400 nm (UV-A) photochemical cataract (clouding of the eye lens) • 400–780 nm (visible) photochemical damage to the retina, retinal burn • 780–1400 nm (near-IR) cataract, retinal burn • 1.4–3.0μm (IR) aqueous flare (protein in the aqueous humour), cataract, corneal burn • 3.0 μm–1 mm corneal burn http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laser_safety http://www.oliviakoski.com
  29. 29. Maximum permissable exposure as a function of wavelength http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:IEC60825_MPE_J_s.png http://www.oliviakoski.com

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