Webcams offer a low-cost way to tune lasers for serious science

Every photon in a laser beam marches in lockstep, at an identical wavelength that depends on what the laser is used for – for example, infrared lasers that drive the optic fiber internet. For many applications, lasers need to be precisely tuned to those wavelengths, and the wavelength-measuring instruments can be more expensive than the lasers themselves.

Now, using a handful of inexpensive components – including an off-the-shelf computer webcam and a small , a device for splitting and diffracting light into several beams – researchers have built a diffraction spectrometer that can tune lasers with better than one part-per-million accuracy.

"The accessibility, simplicity, and cost make it feasible to provide such for every single laser in a laboratory," says physicist and study co-author Robert E. Scholten of the University of Melbourne.

Indeed, Scholten says, the instrument, which is described in the AIP's journal Review of , is simple enough to be constructed in undergraduate physics labs – "and could easily be a high-school project," he adds. "It would provide excellent training in optics and the wave nature of light, and once constructed, the device can be used to elucidate the quantum mechanical structure of matter, for example by measuring the fine-structure splitting or even the hyperfine structure of atoms such as sodium."


Explore further

A silicon chip with integrated laser and optical grating offers new possibilities for telecommunications

More information: "Compact diffraction grating laser wavemeter with sub-picometer accuracy and picowatt sensitivity using a webcam imaging sensor" is published in Review of Scientific Instruments. rsi.aip.org/resource/1/rsinak/v83/i11/p113104_s1
Journal information: Review of Scientific Instruments

Citation: Webcams offer a low-cost way to tune lasers for serious science (2012, December 4) retrieved 15 August 2020 from https://phys.org/news/2012-12-webcams-low-cost-tune-lasers-science.html
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.
0 shares

Feedback to editors

User comments