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Experiments Involving Lasers and Optics

  1. Mar 9, 2013 #1
    Hello all,

    I need to design an experimental apparatus that involves manipulating the path of a laser. Thus far I only know the bare basics about optics and I have never attempted optical apparatus design, does anyone know a book that is a really good reference for experimental applications of optics?

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  3. Mar 9, 2013 #2


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    I don't think you need a book for this. You just need to get a couple of small mirrors and prisms set up. Glue the mirrors to some small pieces of wood if you need a base. The prisms can stand on their own usually.
  4. Mar 9, 2013 #3
    Well, the lasers we are using are pretty high power, and I want to learn more than what's in my university physics book. You sure there's not a popular "optics for dummies" that all the experimentalist tote around?
  5. Mar 9, 2013 #4


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    It really depends on what you are wanting to do. I didn't know you were in a university. Are you simply wanting to reflect it around a little bit, or are you wanting to do something more advanced? Or do you not know?

    I'm not an expert on optics and I haven't studied lasers, so I'm afraid I may not be able to help you much if you are already at a university level.
  6. Mar 9, 2013 #5


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    WARNING! Lasers can cause permanent eye damage. You must follow all applicable safety measures.

    You write “the lasers we are using are pretty high power”. You must learn what Classification your laser(s) are, depending on output power and wavelength, and then learn all the applicable safety rules BEFORE you even switch one laser on.

    “In the U.S., guidance for the use of protective eyewear, and other elements of safe laser use, is given in the ANSI Z136 series of standards.”

    Near the bottom of this Wiki entry there are thirty references. Here is just one:

    As for what experiments you may perform, while still conforming to approved safety precautions, there are plenty of suggestions to be found by a simple Google search. The search terms “laser experiments for beginners”, “laser experiments for high school”, and “laser experiments for college level” bring the searcher hundreds of beginning, intermediate, and advanced level experiments to choose from.

    My personal preference is the Michelson-Morley interferometer experiment because of its simplicity and the importance of the discovery made using it. See:

    Cheers, Bobbywhy

    Edit: Thanks to Jerrynap’s thread in our Engineering Systems & Design Forum this twelve-minute video demonstration of a M-M interferometer is superb!
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  7. Mar 10, 2013 #6
    Yes indeed, I am aware of the dangers, but I will definitely look over them more before I ever flip the switch, and we have a lot of high grade goggles :)

    I just need to redirect the light into a certain direction so that it illuminates a flow of particles in a wind tunnel.

    Thanks for the help Bobbywhy, I looked around on the edmundoptics site, and I think their mini-lessons on optics and lasers are actually pretty useful:

    http://www.edmundoptics.com/learning-and-support/technical/learning-center/application-notes/index.cfm?categoryid=15&ref=menu [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  8. Mar 10, 2013 #7


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    There is just something that creeps me out here.

    If you are dealing with such high-powered laser (is this a Class 3A? 3B? Class 4?), you should not only have an established set of safety protocols and procedures, but you should also have people who are very experienced in dealing not only with the operations, but also the optics. For example, this could be UV lasers, or IR lasers, which require a non-trivial set of optical systems. You can't just stick any old mirror in the path of a non-visible beam!

    The fact that you had to ask this question on a public forum is what creeps me out, because it is giving the impression that all of these support systems aren't available to you, and that you had to go out and look for such information elsewhere. It is one thing to learn new things on one's own, it is another to do this with something that can potentially be dangerous and harmful to you.

    If you are doing this at a school or for work, there can easily be a ton of safety violation here if the proper protocol are not observed, and the institution/company might also be in violation of OSHA standards (assuming this is in the US).

    Please note that the most common accidents when dealing with lasers occurs during laser alignment operations. This is where the participants are most vulnerable, because you have lasers being directed, and often this is where safety guards are usually removed.

  9. Mar 10, 2013 #8
    I think it is very beautiful that you are so critical about the procedure here; it really brings home the point that lasers are not to be played with.

    I assure you that I have been warned repeatedly about the dangers of visible and non-visible lasers, and it is expected of me to discuss my apparatus design with my professor before ever turning anything on.

    The only reason that I have posted in a public forum about asking where to start is so that I can more fully understand the concepts that I will need to sketch out a design for the apparatus and discuss it with my professor (actually I have been asking some gradstudents already). In retrospect, it may have just been a better idea to ask my professor about where to start with optics in the first place.
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