Many have thought about how to bring to life Star Wars’ Death Star and it’s fearsome planet-blasting laser system. While the cost and engineering are still beyond us, combining lasers is now actually possible.
Instead of laser beams joining into a single one in space though, researchers from Macquarie University in Australia were able to combine several laser beams into one by placing an extremely pure diamond crystal at the point of convergence. The crystal allows the power to be directed in a specific direction without beam distortions.
“This discovery is technologically important as laser researchers are struggling with increasing power beyond a certain level due to the large challenges in handling the large heat build-up, and combining beams from multiple lasers is one of the most promising ways to substantially raise the power barrier,” lead author Dr Aaron McKay said in a statement.
The physical mechanism behind this technology is known as Raman scattering. While this is exhibited in many materials, it’s particularly strong in diamonds. Diamonds also dissipate heat well and change the color of the beam, which is important for safety reasons.
“The particular wavelength of the directed energy beam is critical to the efficient transmission through the atmosphere and to reduce the eye hazard for people, or indeed animals, who may be in the vicinity of the beam,” added co-author Professor Rich Mildren.
Planetary destruction is not on the cards for this technology, but it has applications for both defense purposes and scientific analysis. Laser technology is crucial in many areas and this will allow lasers to go beyond the current power limits.
“Researchers are developing high power lasers to combat threats to security from the increased proliferation of low-cost drones and missile technology,” Professor Mildren explained. “High power lasers are also needed in space applications including powering space vehicles and tackling the growing space junk problem that threatens satellites.”