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Uses of lasers

At the time of their invention in 1960, lasers were called "a solution looking for a problem". Since then, they have become ubiquitous, finding utility in thousands of highly varied applications in every section of modern society from vision correction to guidance for transportation and spacecraft to thermonuclear fusion. They have been widely regarded as one of the most influential technological achievements of the 20th century.

The exceptional utility which lasers have found in scientific, industrial and commercial applications stems from their coherency, high monochromaticity, capability for reaching extremely high powers, or a confluence of these factors. For instance, a laser beam's coherence potentially allows it to be focused down to its diffraction limit, which at visible wavelengths corresponds to only a few hundred nanometers. This property is what allows a laser to record gigabytes of information in the microscopic pits of a DVD. It is also what allows a laser of modest power to be focused to very high intensities and used for cutting, burning or even vaporizing materials. For example, a frequency doubled neodymium yttrium aluminum garnet (Nd:YAG) laser emitting 532 nanometer (green) light at 10 watts output power is theoretically capable of achieving an intensity of megawatts per square centimeter. In reality however, perfect focusing of a beam to its diffraction limit is very difficult. See: Laser applications for more information.

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