By using a special light beam known as a ring-Airy beam, scientists have managed to concentrate light rings into a “bullet” which provides more control and precision than a conventional laser is capable of.
Photon torpedo is a term most people recognize from Star Trek, but the idea of a projectile made from light isn’t science fiction at all. The newly discovered ring-Airy beam is a type of light beam that concentrates into an intense light bullet that can propagate over large distances. The discovery could mean big things for several industries, including laser micromachining and harmonic generation. P. Panagiotopoulos, D.G. Papazoglou, A. Couairon and S. Tzortzakis, four french and greek scientists have collaborated on the technology and recently published their findings in Nature Communications.
The Airy beam has the distinct feature of bending into an arc as it moves through space and gets it’s name from the Airy integral, developed by Sir George Biddell Airy to describe how light bends in a rainbow. Back in 2011, the Airy-beam was first tested and made into the shape of a ring. Over a distance, such a ring can be concentrated linearly into a single point of light, perfect for industrial applications in hard to reach places. However, the researchers have now compressed the ring-Airy beam non-linearly, and found that by doing so, the ring doesn’t spread over distance or time, and in fact, retains its intensity better than the Gaussian beams used in conventional lasers. In addition, when the intensity of the beam is increased, it remains on target better than conventional laser do as well. Long story short: they’re better.
The ring-Airy beam as compared to two types of Gaussian laser