Edible Lasers: What’s the Next Course?

Stephen R. Wilk

Thirty-five years have passed since Ted Hänsch and Art Schawlow invented the world’s first edible laser. Is there hope for a future in culinary photonics? Steve Wilk savors the possibilities.


When I was in graduate school in the 1980s, stories had been circulating about how someone had actually constructed a laser using Jell-O. And, sure enough, when I looked through the Science Citation Index and Physics Abstracts Index, I located “Laser Action of Dyes in Gelatin,” by T.W. Hänsch, M. Pernier and A.L. Schawlow in the January 1971 IEEE Journal of Quantum Electronics. The paper revealed that the lasing material wasn’t the colorful Jell-O that we associate with dessert, but rather a clear, unflavored gelatin that had been mixed with sodium fluorescein dye.

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Publish Date: 01 May 2009

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