Future Uses of Lasers

Future Uses of Lasers
Research involving new uses of lasers continues at an amazing pace.
Many new discoveries and developments in science and technology
today are possible only because of lasers.
One area of research in which lasers have made a big impact is
nanotechnology—the development of super-tiny machines and tools.
Laser light can be controlled very precisely, so scientists can use it to
perform extremely fine operations. For example, lasers could be used
to cut out parts to make molecule-size motors. Lasers can also be used
as “optical tweezers” to handle extremely small objects such as
molecules. Scientists are even beginning to use lasers to change the
shape of molecules. They do this by varying the laser’s wavelength.
Future applications of lasers are also sure to involve new ways of
transferring energy. Remember that a wave is a disturbance that
transfers energy. Laser light is made up of EM waves. EM waves can
move energy over great distances without losing any of it. When EM
waves encounter a material medium, their energy can then be converted
into other forms and put to use.
In this artist’s illustration,
a space elevator of the
future draws power from
a laser beam to climb to
an orbiting space station.
One possible future use of lasers is to supply energy to spacecraft.
Scientists imagine a day when orbiting space stations will make rockets
unnecessary. A cable between the ground and the station will make
it possible for a “space elevator” to escape Earth’s gravity by climbing
up the cable. The elevator will be powered by an Earth-based laser.
A device on board the elevator will convert the laser’s energy into
electrical power.
1. How do refracting and reflecting telescopes use convex
lenses and mirrors?
4. Predict What would happen
to laser light if it passed
through a prism?
2. What is different about the
way a camera focuses images
from the way an eye focuses
5. Analyze What are two
ways reflection is involved in
fiber optics?
3. How is laser light different
from ordinary light?
570 Unit 4: Waves, Sound, and Light
6. Apply How could the speed
of light and a laser beam be
used to measure the distance
between two satellites?