Nov. 25 - Laser technology has taken a huge leap forward with the development of the world's first digital laser system, a technology with application in multiple fields from dentistry to photo-copying. Conventional lasers are designed for specific purposes but the digital laser, developed by researchers in South Africa, promises to break new ground across a range of industries. Ben Gruber reports.
This display is showing the digital manipulation of laser light…a process its developers say will transform the way everyday technologies are used in the future. Conventional lasers use mirrors to shape and guide laser light for a specific task. But the digital laser, according to research leader Professor Andrew Forbes, can be manipulated by tiny LCD screens to make the laser perform multiple functions as required. (SOUNDBITE) (English) PROFESSOR ANDREW FORBES, CHIEF SCIENTIST AND RESEARCH LEADER, SAYING: "What the digital laser does differently to an ordinary laser, is that you take one of the mirrors out of an ordinary laser and replace it with this miniature television sets and by changing the pattern on the television you can change the properties of the laser." And by changing its properties, Forbes says a single laser can be used in a variety of ways, depending on the type of beam needed for the job. An operator needs only to adjust it via the LCD screen, like changing channels on a television. The new technology is expected to significantly advance the way lasers are utilized in industries ranging from medicine to communication although, according to Forbes, consumers are unlikely to notice. . (SOUNDBITE) (English) PROFESSOR ANDREW FORBES, CHIEF SCIENTIST AND RESEARCH LEADER, SAYING: "The average person in society is not going to see the digital laser up front in a way that you would see a new cellphone. I think the digital laser is going to be behind the scenes, making things work faster in communication, more efficient in manufacturing, more precise in medicine, so the person won't notice it." But what people will notice according to Forbes, is how much faster their cell phones work thanks to the digital lasers. He says the technology could be used to significantly increase Internet bandwidth…breaking new ground in the future online world.