What is a laser?

What is a laser?

How do lasers work?

Have you ever seen a laser? They're powerful beams of electromagnetic radiation. Laser beams can be made from visible light, x-rays, ultraviolet light or infrared light.

Did you know? Laser stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation

But how do lasers work? This video explains:

To get a laser you need to get some excited atoms! Excited atoms emit photons. This in turn stimulates other atoms to emit photons.

To make a powerful laser you can trap the atoms between two mirrors. This bounces the photons back and forth, increasing the stimulation of other atoms.

Unlike the light we see from the sun, light from a laser is made up of just one colour. All the waves in light from a laser travel in the same direction, making a concentrated beam.

So that's the theory....but it's more exciting to have a look at a laser in action:

What do we need lasers for?

Lasers are one of the most important inventions of the 20th Century. Here are just a few of the things we need lasers for:

  • DVD players
  • In medicine, such as eye surgery
  • In space exploration. NASA have sent a laser to Mars on their Curiosity Rover.
  • To drill holes in diamonds! We can use tiny diamonds for scientific research.
  • Communication - internet and TV

Do you want to know more about lasers? Email planetscience@tinopolis.com with your questions and we'll find an expert to answer them for you!

Curriculum information