Chinese scientists invent laser so powerful it can scar the air

Researchers in China have invented a high-powered laser capable of essentially scorching the air to create patterns.

The Wuhan-based team demonstrated the laser by drawing Chinese characters in the air, which can be viewed from any angle and can be physically touched.

It works by stripping the electrons off air molecules using ultra-short laser pulses and turning them into light. The researchers hope the technology can be implemented in various fields, ranging from brain imaging, to quantum computing.

“With the brand new device, we can draw in the air without using paper and ink,” Cao Xiangdong, lead scientist at the Hongtuo Laboratory of Ultra-Fast Laser in Wuhan’s optics valley, told Science and Technology Daily, as reported by the South China Morning Post.

“The display is an accumulation of our research over more than a decade.”

The displays are created using pulses that last for just a few femtoseconds, which is equivalent to one quadrillionth, or one millionth of one billionth, of a second, but they require a million megawatts of power to be shot out.

In order to turn the air into light, the energy density required is roughly a trillion watts per square centimetre.

The unveiling of the laser comes just weeks after Chinese President Xi Jinping visited laser companies in Wuhan as part of plans to boost advanced technology sectors in the country.

President Xi described the development of such technologies as a matter of “great urgency” during the trip, stressing the need for scientific and technological self-reliance.


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