When it comes to technology, it’s fair to say that things can change on a regular basis. Manufacturers are constantly coming up with ways to improve their technology, whilst brand new products are being invented to potentially knock current ones off the market.
With lasers being integrated into a variety of industry sectors, could we see them set to replace a number of existing tools in order to produce better, safer and more efficient results?
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some potential items lasers could replace in the future and how lasers really could be a revolutionary breakthrough in more ways than one.
Spark plugs in car engines
Although this has been touched upon in the past, the spark plug driving combustion in your car may soon be getting an optional upgrade. Laser ignition systems could replace spark plugs in order to ignite the fuel-air mix in engines. This could boost fuel efficiency and cut down on carbon emissions.
Laser ignition can be finely tuned to be more precise than spark plugs as well. It could provide better timing, making combustion more efficient and improving overall economy. In a conventional combustion engine, the fuel-air mix is compressed and the spark is generated by electricity. This is a good way to ignite fuel but you are limited with what kind of fuel you can burn.
Lasers will focus on providing ignition anywhere in the cylinder, whilst spark plugs generate their ignition at the top, opposite the piston. If lasers focus the ignition in the centre of the compressed fuel-air mix, it could spread out more evenly within the cylinder creating a more efficient explosion.
Laser ‘tattoos’ could remove the need for sticky labels during the sale of fruit. Developers have suggested that the technology will remove the pigment from the fruit’s surface to show information such as the item’s sell-by-date and price of the product. This laser process will not affect the taste or lifespan of the fruit, and Marks and Spencer – the multinational retailer – is looking to trial the technology in the hope of lowering its carbon footprint.
Physicists from the University of Copenhagen and doctors from Copenhagen University hospital have joined together to test whether malignant tumours can be removed by using laser light instead of chemotherapy treatment.
The idea is that if you can plant nanoparticles within the tumour, the light from the laser can heat the particles’ metallic surface from the outside. As a result, the nanoparticles burn the tumour without the use of medicines that would impact the entire body. This could be a hugely revolutionary development in health and science if this became a breakthrough.
The hope is that this new method could help to fight a variety of cancers without having to use medicine, which can sometimes be difficult to get to by surgical means – cancers of the brain or internal organs are examples of this.
Scientists could do this in one of two ways: either they will inject the nanoparticles straight into the tumour or exploit the fact that rapidly growing malignant tumours develop a network of blood vessels that keep them nourished.
Steven DenBaars, a research scientist at UC Santa Barbara, has been working on LED lights for 20 years and would like to see lasers replacing the archaic bulb and socket infrastructure on a substantial portion of indoor lights.
Some may say that there isn’t much difference between the warm glow of a lightbulb – which creates light by heating a filament until it’s white-hot – and a laser, which generates light in a single wavelength and shoots a focused beam at a miniscule target.
BMW have used this idea to create longer lasting laser-based lighting technology using blue diodes. The BMW engineers were able to create a focused beam of white light that was set to transform the blue laser light into more diffuse white light. The result is headlights with a strong working life that they could even potentially outlive the automobile itself.
Going to the dentist has never been on anyone’s list of favourite things to do, but these painful procedures could be a thing of the past with laser light and stem cells potentially becoming the future.
Researchers at Harvard University have found that exposing the cells on the inside of the tooth to weak laser light could stimulate the growth of dentin (the substance that makes up much of a tooth’s structure).
Researchers have tested this method on human cells harvested from tooth extractions and the laser light seemed to stimulate the growth of dentin. However, more research and tests are needed before the therapy can be tested on human patients.
Lasers offer the reduction of bleeding, which is not only beneficial for the patients themselves, but it also allows the dentist to work on patients with health problems such as diabetes, heart problems or those with thin blood.
So, what can we say about the future of laser technology?
Well, from this post we can see that lasers have the potential to change various industries’ methods for the better, and with faster, safer and more accurate results, what’s to stop other sectors incorporating the use of lasers into their business too?
No one could predict what the laser could be used for when it was first discovered and sometimes it takes some time before a discovery can be used in tangible ways. But, with health sectors, the environment and engineering all being improved in some way or another by laser technology, we don’t think it’ll be too long before lasers are a necessary tool in every industry.
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