A Red Light for Green Laser Pointers

Jemellie Galang, Alessandro Restelli, Edward W. Hagley and Charles W. Clark

Inexpensive green laser pointers can emit 20 mW of unspecified infrared radiation in addition to their green output. The problem derives from an unsafe design. This article describes a simple diagnostic method to identify hazardous pointers by using a digital camera, a Web camera, a remote control and a compact disc.



In December 2009, we purchased three 10 mW green laser pointers for $15 each. Measurements of the broadband output power from one laser showed that it emitted at least ten times more invisible infrared light than visible green light. This is a serious hazard, since infrared light can cause significant eye damage in humans and animals before the observer is aware of exposure. After several tests, we found that this problem is common in inexpensive green laser pointers, though its seriousness varies widely.

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