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Need ideas for physics project

  1. Jun 17, 2010 #1
    I'm skipping most the details so no need to inquire -- I have finished my first year of grad school in physics and am not going to join a group until the first quarter of next year. Until then I will be taking classes and teaching; in the summer I only do the latter. I don't have qualifiers to worry about (just yet) but I am impatient and want to start doing something with my time other than read books and studying. So, I would like to build something..

    The field I am going into has a high concentration on fast lasers, so my first thought was: build a laser. I know how they work in theory, but building one would cause me to gain a whole new technical perspective (I'm going into experimental, by the way).

    There are of course a number of problems associated with this goal, namely speaking cost and safety. I am a grad student, and as I'm sure you are all aware my income cannot support anything too exorbitant (looking to spend no more than a grand or so). It is not difficult to make a powerful laser, just cannibalize the diode from a dvd-rw or a blu-ray and place it in a housing. However, I do not wish to go blind. The same goes for gas lasers.

    Another option would be to make an external cavity diode laser, however again cost becomes an issue. I can manufacture the device since I have access to the machine shop, but the diode and grating might be hard to come by. And not to mention the PZT; I would not be able to afford one.

    So, I am looking for ideas, thoughts, feedback, critiques, hugs, etc. If you have any ideas let me know. As far as my expertise, I am very good at drafting (mainly in AutoCAD) and simulations as well as programming. I have experience in EE and CompE specifically with microcontrollers. I am well trained on mechanical equipment and have lots of fancy tools available to me. I also am very capable with labview, arduino, surface mounted soldering, etc. I know some about glassblowing but I know someone in the department who would help me.

  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 18, 2010 #2


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  4. Jun 18, 2010 #3
    Something I was talking about with some friends the other day: build a breathylizer. Seriously, it'd be a fun project. And maybe you could make one that uses a laser.
  5. Jun 19, 2010 #4
    Looking for something a bit more advanced..
  6. Jun 19, 2010 #5
    Microwave links are ubiquitous. I've wondered if a modulated maser might be a cheaper alternative. No dish, no reference oscillator, no amplifier.

    Question: Could a maser, or perhaps a laser, be configured to work as a receiver instead of a transmitter?
  7. Jun 20, 2010 #6
    I was looking through hackaday and the only project that really struck me was http://tidbit77.blogspot.com/2010/02/fusion-reactors-first-light.html" [Broken] -- a homebuild fusion reactor. Everything else that I can think of (especially on that site) is either useless, uninteresting, or interesting but unuseful (not to say that a fusion reactor is, especially one that takes in more power than it puts out). But it seems like an interesting project with lots of opportunities for learning. This sort of thing.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
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