Carbon dioxide (CO2) lasers were one of the earliest gas lasers to be developed in 1964 by Bell Labs, and some claim them to be one of the most powerful continuous lasers available today.
The active laser medium is a gas discharge, which is either air or water cooled, in part dependent upon the power being applied. Applications are diverse in medicine and dentistry; in the industrial sector, they range from laser marking of various materials, to processing of glass, ceramics, plastics, and wood. In the metallurgical sector, uses include cutting and marking metals from copper to stainless, to aluminum. They are also used in the defense industry, for anti-missile weapons.
In the medical field, applications for CO2 lasers include dermatology, plastic surgery, ophthalmology, neurological surgery, and more. CO2 resurfacing of skin can precisely remove thin layers of skin with minimal heat damage to the surrounding structures. The field of CO2 laser resurfacing is rapidly changing and improving. For laser resurfacing applications, a new generation of CO2 lasers uses very short pulsed light energy (ultra-pulsed) or continuous light beams, which are delivered in a scanning pattern. There is also a trend to remove wrinkled skin successfully via CO2 lasers. As to the role in dermatology, this laser has long been used to remove scars, warts, birthmarks, enlarged oil glands on the nose, and other skin conditions.
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