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How to build your own robot with lasers – part 1

by on December 27, 2013

Building a robot with lasers isn’t easy. There are so many variables to contend with and you find yourself pondering colossal quandaries like “Do I want my robot to be sexy?” and “Where am I going to find enough science for the type of robot I want?” and “WHAT ABOUT THE LASERS!?”. But fear not, oh Temporarily Stymied Architect of the Future! We want to help you. So without further adieu, here is some valuable information that can be put towards your endeavor.

In this chapter, we are going to take a look at a few basic types of lasers, and how you will use them in conjunction with your robot. There are many different types of lasers. The laser medium can be a solid, gas, liquid or semiconductor. Lasers are commonly designated by the type of lasing material employed:

  • Solid-state lasers. These have lasing material distributed in a solid matrix (such as the ruby or neodymium:yttrium-aluminum garnet “Yag” lasers). The neodymium-Yag laser emits infrared light at 1,064 nanometers (nm). A nanometer is 1×10-9 meters.
  • Gas lasers (helium and helium-neon, HeNe, are the most common gas lasers) have a primary output of visible red light. CO2 lasers emit energy in the far-infrared, and are used for cutting hard materials.
  • Excimer lasers (the name is derived from the terms excited and dimers) use reactive gases, such as chlorine and fluorine, mixed with inert gases such as argon, krypton or xenon. When electrically stimulated, a pseudo molecule (dimer) is produced. When lased, the dimer produces light in the ultraviolet range.
  • Dye lasers use complex organic dyes, such as rhodamine 6G, in liquid solution or suspension as lasing media. They are tunable over a broad range of wavelengths.
  • Semiconductor lasers, sometimes called diode lasers, are not solid-state lasers. These electronic devices are generally very small and use low power. They may be built into larger arrays, such as the writing source in some laser printers or CD players.

Check back soon for part 2 of How To Build Your Own Robot with Lasers.

Thanks to Matthew Weschler over at How Stuff Works for his invaluable information about lasers, since we don’t actually know much about them, and don’t care to learn, because our robots with lasers come ready made all the way from space. Yeah… SPACE.

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