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The use of lasers is currently being implemented in various fields to help the environment. They have been shown to have the ability to decrease material waste and reduce use of harmful resources through their nature of marking a material with the use of light. This does away with the need for stick-on serial numbers and barcodes, logos and safety information.
Not only can lasers help make manufacture more environmentally friendly, but they are also being implemented to help cut down on energy use (in the setting of lights which switch on and off automatically for example), and are even being used to research climate change (for example in studying rainforests).
Need for a Green Approach Toward Laser Production
As well as being used to help environmentally friendly efforts, the production of lasers themselves needs to be green. There is a myriad of applications for lasers, they are used in products in the fields of medicine, communications, lithography, the military, research, engineering, and data. In all of these areas, there is a growing demand to go green, with industries making sustainability and reducing their environmental impact a priority. Meaning that photonics technologies are also the focus of the green movement.
The current material used to produce most lasers is the semiconductor Gallium Arsenide. Evidence suggests that this material poses health risks to those working with it, as exposure in large amounts is associated with toxicity to the lung, reproductive organs, and kidney. Fortunately, scientists at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras have made a revolutionary breakthrough that will enable the production of lasers to be in line with the environmentally friendly benefits that they bring.
Bio-Friendly Laser Developed from Carrots
Earlier this year, a team at the IIT devised a way to create a bio-friendly laser from carrots by using the CV Raman technique, a scientific process that won CV Raman the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1930. Dr Sivarama Krishnan, part of the IIT team, explained that the innovation takes advantage of the fact that carotenoids found in carrots, as well as the porphyrins in their chlorophyll, are optically active. This is what gives the bio-friendly laser its visible light absorption properties, which are key to creating laser light. Electrons in the material become excited when they absorb the light energy, and then when returning to their normal state the material emits the light particles in a powerful and sharp burst.
The laser created by the team in Madras has demonstrated that it is entirely possible to remove the necessity for use of toxic components. They have shown that natural and biocompatible systems are possible and that innovations with natural materials are entirely feasible. This has implications for areas of science outside of lasers, with the focus on developing environmentally systems in all industries, the research by the Madras team is demonstrating that creativity with natural materials can give successful results. The benefits of the carrot-based laser are plentiful, it creates a natural and fully biocompatible system, replaces the use of risky Gallium Arsenide with easy and safe materials, is robust and reliable with temperature sensitivity.
The implications of this research are almost unlimited, as well as being a leap forward in optical spectroscopy and sensing, it will help other industries make their supply chains greener. Currently, the research has focused on random lasers, a field which is relatively new, and the applications of which are still growing. Meaning that the impact of the bio-friendly random laser is yet to realize its potential, with the possibility of further developments in the near future.
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