Pyrotechnic Lasers

Stephen R. Wilk

Through a series of controlled exothermic reactions, fireworks light up the night to mark national holidays and milestone occasions. As we celebrate the big 5-0 for the laser itself, Steve Wilk wonders: Could pyrotechnics also be used to pump lasers?



Lasers have been pumped using flashlamps, arc lamps, sunlight and other lasers—but what about pyrotechnics? This possibility has intrigued me ever since I started studying lasers. Burning metal, such as magnesium, is extremely bright and has a broad spectrum with a lot of hard ultraviolet light, which is excellent for pumping many visible and near-infrared lasers. Moreover, a pyrotechnic source requires no warm-up time, no cooling systems, and no supporting electrical systems. Transfer is very efficient, and the light pump is ready to go at a moment’s notice.

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