November 2013

FEATURE

Lasers go digital

A team of researchers at the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in South Africa have developed the world’s first ‘digital laser’, whereby the laser mode can be altered as required and in real time. The device uses a spatial light modulator (SLM) as one of its mirrors, which can be controlled digitally to change the properties of the laser. Customised laser modes can therefore be generated on demand, by changing only a picture written to the laser mirror. The research has recently been published in Nature Communications.

FEATURE

Wonder material

Harder than diamond yet flexible, graphene has been touted as a material that will affect everyone’s life in some respect, at some point. Electronics, computing, medical diagnostics, aerospace, energy storage, solar cells that can be painted onto a surface, environmental monitoring, desalination technology – the list of potential uses for graphene goes on. The material, made up of carbon atoms arranged in a honeycomb structure, is only one atom thick and possesses remarkable mechanical, electronic, optical, thermal, and chemical properties.

FEATURE

Illuminating entertainment

Laser light shows might be familiar from huge sporting events, such as the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games, or as part of the pyrotechnics at rock concerts, but using the laser as an artistic tool is less common. Mike Gould describes himself as one of the few laser artists working in the USA and his latest art installation – L is for Laser – can be seen at the Alden B Dow Museum of Science and Art in Midland, Michigan.

FEATURE

Reaching for the stars

At the UK’s Photonex conference in October, David Walker, Professor of Optics at Glyndwr University in Wales, announced that the European Southern Observatory (ESO) had approved the first components of a telescope whose construction will bolster the European optics industry – and, ultimately, transform our perception of the universe.