Around the world today we reach a technological milestone, as the 48th year of laser devices is celebrated and this beaming technology increases its significance in the advancing modern world.

As this multi-billion dollar industry nears half a century since the first laser was pioneered on May 16th 1960, it’s now difficult to image a world without such technology. The applications of lasers are widespread across industry and our everyday lives, finding use in metal cutting, science, spectroscopy, laser printers, bar code readers, and optical storage devices such as CD’s and DVD’s.

An acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation, a laser typically emits light in a narrow, low-divergence monochromatic beam with a well-defined wavelength. The first working laser was demonstrated back in 1960 by Theodore Maiman at the Hughes Research Laboratories and ever since that epic moment, have experienced an explosion in application.

One of the oldest types of laser is though to be the gas laser, used for a wealth of purposes and consuming an array of different gases, from helium-neon, argon-ion, helium-silver, and carbon dioxide. Indeed, lasers are still consuming an incredible amount of gas today, with substantial growth in the demand for laser equipment and laser metal cutting equipment seen over the last five years, for example.

So strong is the demand for gases in laser applications, that leading industrial gas company Air Liquide had recently announced increased investment in equipment and on-site storage facilities to cater for this.

Laser gases come in two groups, one to generate the laser beam and the other to assist in the cutting. High purity nitrogen, carbon dioxide and helium are combined to generate the laser beam, while high purity nitrogen or oxygen are used to facilitate fast and clean cuts at the cutting end.

Speaking of the announcement, Air Liquide Specialty Gas Manager, Wessels Els, told Engineering News, “Gases are graded according to their purity and a specific high quality is necessary for laser equipment. The gases are manufactured and produced to these specific laser quality requirements.”

With 50 years of the laser device fast approaching then, that’s not the only area in which gases are utilised here – with chemical lasers encompassing the hydrogen fluoride laser and the Deuterium fluoride laser making use of combustion products of ethylene in nitrogen trifluoride. Excimer lasers, often found in the field of healthcare and medical applications, are also another outlet of gas use within laser technology.