Are lasers capable of producing explosions ,or is that just fictional filler?

  • Thread starter promeus
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  • #1
Please read this carefully before answering,in fiction lasers are quite common and they seem to have the property to produce explosions.I am not asking if they exist,I am asking if with the right technology can laser beams produce explosions.Is this just some myth or is there some truth to photons being able to produce explosions?

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  • #2
Science Advisor
In inertial confinement reactors, they shoot lasers at a pellet of deuterium and tritium to create a miniature thermonuclear explosion.
  • #3
It's not necessarily a "property of lasers," it's more about the consequences of high energy density. If you fire a laser with enough energy at some matter, it could cause nuclear fission, which would liberate a huge amount of energy from the matter, causing an explosion.
  • #4
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IIRC an area of research in laser weaponry is looking into creating lasers that ablate a layer on the surface of the target creating a plasma that expands rapidly; essentially creating an explosion. I think it's called pulsed laser projectile or something like that.
  • #5
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Has medical uses but does this really count as an "explosion"?... [Broken]

Laser resurfacing uses a laser to send out brief pulses of high-energy light that are absorbed by water and substances in the skin called chromophores. The light is changed into heat energy, and the heat then destroys (vaporizes) thin sections of skin, layer by layer.
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  • #6
Science Advisor
Absolutely. If you suddenly overheat a small area, it will explode. You'd need an extremely powerful laser, but if you are using it as a weapon, it'd have to be that powerful. It'd probably be pretty different than you see in the sci-fi movies, but the concept itself is solid.
  • #7
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Lasers are used sometimes in fluid mechanics research to generate small explosions for use as disturbances in wind tunnels.
  • #8
Please read this carefully before answering,in fiction lasers are quite common and they seem to have the property to produce explosions.
If you think about typical movies scenes: For those explosions, you usually need some explosives in the target (hydrocarbons can be fine, too) - if you can heat that with lasers, it might explode.
  • #9
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The title to this thread is a bit to general. SOME lasers are capable of producing explosions. Your run of the mill pocket laser pointer puts out a few milliWatts and will never cause anything to explode.

I used to work with a Coherent Avia X laser, which produced a 3OW green beam. As produced its 3mm diameter beam could flame paper or cause a bad skin burn instantly. Focused to a 30um spot it vaporized Silicone. I never saw an explosion of any kind.

I talked with an ex AirForce tech who claimed to have seen a 50cm wide path of glass fused from desert sand caused by their laser.

The 30W laser I worked with consisted of a 55lb box of power supply and control electronics and a 110lb box with the laser head and water cooling plumbing. The laser that supposedly burned a glass path in the sand was contained in and powered by a C130 aircraft. In other words it was huge. Lasers are not a real effient devices the Coherent consumed several hundred watts to produce the 30W beam. High power laser beams do not come easy or cheap.

Explosions are not the normal result of a laser, as witnessed by the laser on Curiosity which is capable of delivering very high energy but short term pulses. One could say that the spots left behind by Cursioitys laser are the result of a small explosion, how big of an explsion did you want? A megaWatt for a few milliseconds is able to vaporize (explode?) a small bit of most any rock.
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  • #10
I'm sure that it depends on what the laser is hitting. Also, I believe that the light could be converted into kinetic energy upon contact, in certain circumstances, which would cause an explosion.