Laser beams on steroids

By James Mitchell Crow

UK physicists have developed new ways of generating industrial lasers powerful enough to slice through steel. The trick is to pass the beam along active optical fibres, David Payne from the University of Southampton told the Australian Institute of Physics conference in Melbourne. And 50 years after the first demonstration of a laser, the intense beams that can be generated in this way are so powerful they can be used to cut out car parts and weld them together.

At present, optical fibres are used passively to carry internet and telephone traffic, but Payne and his colleagues have developed fibres spiked with rare earth metals which interact with light to amplify laser beams. Future applications for their technology include powerful projectors for next-generation cinema screens and new kinds of wiring for telecommunications.


David Payne,