Monday, November 14, 2005

More Lab Pictures

This is a seventies era argon ion laser. You can just about see the orange case at the bottom, even though the cover is off. We were told to figure out if it would still work. The first time it was tested (Ken and I were safely in Europe, fortunately) it blew a fuse.

The fuses are those white cylinders sitting horizontally in the middle. They're bigger than a roll of quarters, maybe the size of a roll of half-dollars. The blue cylinders at the top are capacitors as big around as my forearm. I can't remember how many thousands of volts I was told this thing needed for initial discharge, unfortunately. It was a really impressive number.

Looks like it works. But those are some weird error messages... Turn it off!

Liquid nitrogen is less dangerous. The thing it's spraying from is an ion pump, for the vaccuum system. Liquid nitrogen cools parts of this thing, and then the rubidium vapor condenses on them, like water condensing on the inside of your car windows when they're cold. This gives a higher vacuum. Or so I'm told.

This was sent with one of our orders from Thorlabs. They are now my favorite optics company.


Simon W said...

Did you have haze of some sort in the room when you took that picture, or is that laser really, stupidly, ridiculously bright?!

Mary said...

I don't know exactly why that picture turned out the way it did, actually. The laser is really, stupidly, ridiculously bright. It is capable of 50 Watts, which, concentrated as they are in a laser beam, can do a lot of damage. The similar argon lasers we operate normally in the lab (to pump our infrared lasers) are set at about 10 Watts, and easily burn holes in clothes when we are careless.

The beams of those lasers are visible as long green lines, because there is usually dust trapped in them, scattering the light. (The lab is not deliberately hazy.)

This one, however, hadn't been left on long enough for the beam to trap dust. And if you look at it, the long green line you see here isn't the actual beam. It's at slightly the wrong angle. The beam is not visible, except at the very end where it's scattered by the metal block we pointed it at. The long line you see is a reflection off the floor... I'm just not exactly sure why that shows up, though the beam itself doesn't.