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New ‘anti laser’ creation could aid in fight against cancer

There is something extremely cool about laser technology. If you even mention the word ‘laser’ to a geek you can be sure of an excited response.

Two scientists at Yale University have built the world’s first ‘anti laser’. A device to stop a laser beam. A conventional laser emits a constant beam of light in one direction, and the anti laser simply does the opposite. It can absorb the laser light and cancel it out. Scientists actually feel that this strange new product could help in the fight against cancer.

The anti-laser: incoming light waves are trapped in a cavity where they bounce back and forth until they are eventually absorbed. Their energy is dissipated as heat.

Douglas Stone, one of the two researchers behind the project said to Fox News “I figured, if we just somehow illuminated the cavity, and replaced the gain medium with something that tends to absorb light, we could essentially reverse the process”.

Roughly explained, the Laser which was created in 1960 can be split up into three individual sections. A resonator, which consists of mirrors to trap and direct light, a gain medium which amplifies the light, and a power source.

To create the opposite of this light directing device, Stone turned the gain medium into what he called the ‘loss medium’. So instead of emitting light the loss medium takes light in, then absorbs it. As easy as this sounds, the physical creation wasn’t so straightforward with Stone saying it took almost a year of hard work to perfect the system.

He said: “Part of the problem is that all experiments just have certain imperfections that the theory doesn’t have. But we kept at it, because no one had really done anything like this before. And now that it works, it should be very easy to recreate.”

The technical word for the ‘anti laser’ is ‘Coherent Perfect Absorber (CPA)’. The laser has been such a high profile invention that we can imagine this new device could have a high impact on society in the future.

“With our method, you might be able to get light in the center of a medium for therapeutic or radiological application,” Stone told FoxNews.com. “Already, radiation for cancer does something like this but uses a different principal. And it can only shrink tumors near the surface of the skin. But in our case, CPAs may be able to reach a bit deeper.

In my career, I’ve seen many things that I thought would never work … work. So you never know.”

KitGuru says: It is increidible to think that two men can create something so complex, yet with so many positive ramifications for future society.

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    “yet with so many positive ramifications for future society.”

    Aye, considering Laser weaponry is coming to a theater near you. Would be funny if something derived from this could be used to nullify the laser weaponry (2016)

  • ET

    I think that the BBC news item (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-12453893) does a good job of explaining this.

    The short of it is, this stops light of a particular wavelength, like the laser generates light at a particular wavelength. As the article says, this energy is dissipated as heat, so this won’t be useful as a laser shield. The researchers think that it could be very useful for computing, though, as varying the light’s wavelength a little could make this function as a switch.