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Portable green laser for crime scene investigationsWhen people think of lasers, they may well picture James Bond strapped to a steel table about to get sliced in two. Flash forward a few decades. Lasers--"Laser" stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation--are inside DVD players and medical equipment but not used as weapons of murder or even mass destruction.
Santa Clara, Calif.-based Coherent (the name comes from the fact that photons in a laser are synchronized, forming a coherent beam of light) turns 40 this year. John Ambroseo, CEO of the self-proclaimed worldwide leader in photonics, gave CNET News.com a tour of the company's facilities. An interview will follow shortly, but in the meantime, here are some pictures from the tour (alas, there was nary a secret agent in sight).
This first photo shows the TracER Forensic System. This device is essentially a portable green laser that can be used during crime scene investigations to detect fingerprints, fiber strands and other material. Typically, investigators have to take materials back to the lab for testing. The TracER lets them scan a complete crime scene on the spot. The idea was concocted over a lunch meeting, Ambroseo said.
Fingerprints are detected because of bioluminescence
The fingerprints are detected because of bioluminescence, said Ambroseo. The chemistry of the fingerprint or biological sample essentially emits weak light. Several police agencies have bought the device, which runs on standard notebook batteries. It has also been featured on the TV show "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation."
"Optically pumped" lasersRed, green and blue optically pumped lasers pointing to one another. Traditionally, to generate laser light in an industrial laser, argon gas is excited. Because the photons emitted from the excited atoms are identical in their phase and amplitude, a strong beam of light (rather than scattered luminescence) is generated.
Researchers at MIT came up with optically pumped semiconductor lasers, a way to amplify laser light with a semiconductor and a series of lenses. As a result, the cost and power consumption of lasers has declined, opening up the market. Coherent started getting into optically pumped semiconductor lasers in 2001 and now expects them to generate a significant part of the company's roughly $500 million in annual revenue.