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Emerging Technology: Laser Guns

The gadgets that we dreamed of in sci-fi films are becoming a reality. I would like to go take you all back in your memory lane to the famous movies like Star Trek, Star Wars, War of the Worlds, UFO, Planet of the Apes or any movie related to space and aliens. Our first thought would definitely go towards the technology used by the Aliens and Space people. Those were variety of imaginary laser weapons, laser pistols, laser rifles used for destroying the cities and people.

This idea made military minds to turn lasers guns from science fiction into reality for everything. Many big defence companies are taking a fresh look at laser technology. As lasers provides a number of benefits like keeping costs down and ensuring accuracy they need minimal support and maintenance. A LASER is defined as a generator for light waves based on atoms and quantum physical effects. They are often used for sighting, ranging and targeting for guns; in these cases the laser beam is not the source of the weapon's firepower.

The lasing process is all about storing and releasing energy. An energy source injects energy into the lasing medium. The energy excites electrons, which move up to higher energy levels. When the electrons relax, they emit photons. The photons move back and forth between the mirrors, exciting other electrons as they go. This produces powerful, focused light. Laser weapons usually generate brief high-energy pulses. A one megajoule laser pulse delivers roughly the same energy as 200 grams of high explosive, and has the same lethal effect on a target. The primary damage mechanism is mechanical

shear, caused by reaction when the surface of the target is explosively evaporated. There are many different types of lasers used in military weapons. Few are:-

• Solid state Lasers have a lasing medium that is solid crystal, like the ruby laser or the neodymium YAG laser, which emits 1.06 micrometer wavelength.

• Gas Lasers have a lasing medium that is a gas or combination of gases, such as helium-neon laser or carbon dioxide laser, which emits 10.6 micrometer wavelengths (infrared).

• Excimer Lasers or ultraviolet laser have a lasing medium that is a combination of reactive gases, like chlorine or fluorine, and inert gases, like argon or krypton. The argon fluoride laser emits ultraviolet light of 193 nanometer wavelengths.

• Dye Lasers have a lasing medium that is a fluorescent dye. They can be tuned to a variety of wavelengths within a certain range. The Rhoda mine 6G dye laser can be tuned from 570- to 650-nanometer wavelengths.

• Carbon Dioxide Lasers are being explored by the militaries because they're powerful infrared lasers that can be used for cutting metal.

• Chemical Oxygen-Iodine Laser. The energy source for the COIL is a chemical reaction, and the lasing medium is molecular iodine. It is used aboard the Air Force's Airborne Laser.

• Thin Disk Laser. Boeing Company is working on Thin Disk Laser System. It takes a series of commercial solid-state lasers and integrates them to produce one concentrated high-energy beam. It surpassed 30 kilowatts in power and enough to do some serious damage to a battlefield threat.

• Fiber Laser System. Aculight Company worked on Spectral Beam Combining technique to produce a high power laser beam. It works sort of like an inverse prism, with lasers of slightly different wavelengths entering it and coming out as a single beam. It resulted in a compact fiber laser system capable of producing 100 kilowatts of power. Fiber lasers tend to need less power to operate and optical fibers provide nearly perfect quality beams. Rather than using mirrors that can become misaligned, this approach confines the light within the fiber's glass structure. Types of Laser Guns

• Rayguns are a type of fictional directed-energy weapon. They have various alternate names ray gun, death ray, beam gun, blaster, laser gun, phaser, zap gun etc. They are a well-known feature of science fiction.

• Laser Tag is a team or individual sport or recreational activity where players attempt to score points by tagging targets, typically with a hand-held infrared-emitting targeting device. At their core, laser tag systems typically use infrared signaling to track firing of the laser.

• Electro Lasers are electroshock weapons which send current along an electrically conductive laser-induced plasma channel. Electro lasers are recoilless, first firing a low-power diode laser beam to ionize the air, then following it almost instantly with a high-voltage electrical charge that follows the path of the laser to the target.

• Pulse Laser Gun was a DIY project that has a small pulse laser head and generates a kW-pulse of infrared light. It is full metal body and can blast through plastic, razorblade, and even 5mm of Styrofoam. It has a range a 3 meters, and the gun itself is 320mm long and weighs at 2 pounds. It is battery powered, and it is good for about 50 shots.

• Dazzlers. Some lasers are used as non-lethal weapons, such as dazzlers which are designed to temporarily blind or distract people or sensors. We have to brace ourselves for a hi-tech new world with the Laser Close-In Weapon Systems. As lasers will be used as weapons; bringing nearly instant and extremely precise strikes to the battlefield. With deep magazines of laser-ness, they remove the worry of running out of ammunition. Plus lasers can be calibrated to the scale of the threat, ranging from a non-lethal blow through to taking out a missile. Developments are also being made in US Air force like Airborne Laser (Advanced Tactical Laser), the PHaSR and the Active Denial System and Navy equipment as well like Mobile Tactical High Energy Laser (MTHEL), and Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL) etc. On same lines Boeing has also been making progress in other sorts of military laser weapons.

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