Researchers in South Africa have developed a new digital laser which they say will revolutionise laser technology.
Since the first laser was developed in 1958, its use has been applied in a multitude of fields from surgery to photocopying. Conventional lasers are designed for specific purposes but its developers say the digital laser promises to break new ground across a range of industries from medicine to communication.
The team has shown that, instead of requiring expensive optics or other special mediating devices to control the shape of the beam, laser beams can be digitally controlled from within the laser device itself.
Andrew Forbes, chief scientist and research leader at South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, explains:
“The digital laser was an idea that we had a few years ago, it is basically the intersection of two very disparate worlds, the one is digital holography using small LCD screens, the same screens that you would have in your house as televisions to dynamically change lights. And the other part is the laser, and what the digital laser does differently to an ordinary laser, is that you take one of the mirrors out of an ordinary laser and replace it with this miniature television set and by changing the pattern on the television you can change the properties of the laser,” he says.
Though this new technology will be far less visible than other high tech innovations such as mobile phones for instance, its use is expected to make a real difference behind the scenes for a wide variety of everyday services, including communication, medicine and manufacturing.