Home-Built Nitrogen (N2) Laser

  
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The nitrogen (N2) laser produces intense extremely short (a few ns) intense (100 kW typical) pulses of light in the near UV portion of the E/M spectrum (337. 1 nm). Despite this impressive capability, the N2 laser is among the easiest to construct for the following reasons: Mirrors are NOT required. The gain of the lasing medium (N2) is so high tha
Home-Built Nitrogen (N2) Laser - schematic

t one pass through the discharge chamber is sufficient to produce an intense coherent UV pulse. A totally reflecting mirror of almost any type as long as it reflects UV can be added at the far end of the chamber to double the output if desired. All it is doing is reflecting the half of the beam that would be otherwise lost out the other end of the box. In fact, a true resonator with a pair of mirrors would not help much at all. The lasing process is self limiting so all the exciting action is over in a few nanoseconds! The basic pulse power supply is very simple and not terribly dangerous (in a relative sort of way compared to most other home-built lasers). A higher performance (and more dangerous) power supply is an option to boost average power but is not required. Compared to all the other home-built lasers, the nitrogen laser also likely has the lowest risk of failure IFF you stay pretty close to the SciAm design, more below. No glass working, no mirrors, mirror mounts, or mirror alignment, minimal vacuum. Despite this, what you end up with isn`t substantially inferior to a commercial unit costing many kilobucks. It just lacks the convenience features and other bells and whistles. Now, the UV output isn`t in a tight high quality beam like that of an HeNe or CO2 laser but it is a real laser. So, despite the high peak power, due to the lack of beam quality, the N2 laser isn`t going to be good for materials processing...



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