‘Laser’ is such a familiar word, it’s easy to overlook the fact that it’s actually an acronym.
Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation was first successfully demonstrated to be a viable technique for producing intense beams of single-colour light back in the 1960s. As the name implies, laser light is produced when atoms or molecules are stimulated and emit photons.
If a normal white light bulb can be compared to a noisy festival crowd, a laser is more like a marching band. Travelling through space like a pencil beam, laser light is highly ordered and provides an invaluable tool in the world of science and technology because its properties are easy to control and manipulate to cut and drill, for instance, or to provide information and insights about virtually any object it interacts with.
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A laser is one of the most versatile and useful tools available to scientists. It is a device which amplifies light - by shining a light beam in at one end of a laser, a more intense beam emerges at the other and it can be produced in intense pulses.
The Central Laser Facility (CLF) provides world class laser facilities to UK and international researchers. From advanced, compact tuneable lasers which can pinpoint individual particles to high power laser installations that recreate the conditions inside stars. A vigorous development programme ensures that the CLF maintains its international competitiveness.
Last updated: 04 March 2016