What is an Argon Gas Laser?

A man named William Bridges at Hughes Aircraft first invented the Argon gas laser in 1964. The Argon laser is a laser system that uses noble gas as the active medium. Argon gas lasers are used in many applications such as forensic medicine, entertainment, general surgery, ophthalmic surgery, holography and as an optical “pumping” source.

So how does an argon gas laser work? This device emits wavelengths of blue/green colored light that is a monochromatic light source and each wavelength has a very narrow bandwidth. In medical applications of the laser, the hemoglobin in the blood cells absorbs the blue/green colored light. These medical applications for the laser include treating both glaucoma and diabetic eye disease.


Treatments for Eye Issues

The blue/green wavelengths can pass through the fluid inside of the eye without damaging the eye, making it a benefit to treating diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy is a severe disorder of the retina where the blood vessels leak. The argon gas laser works by burning and sealing the blood vessels. Dermatologists use argon gas lasers to treat ulcers, lesions and polyps as well. The argon laser targets a precise area and offers a great advantage over other therapies.

As stated above, some of the eye problems that can be treated with argon gas laser include retinal detachment, glaucoma and macular degeneration. The lasers give out continuous waves of milliwatts to tens of watts. It passes through tubes made of Nickel end bells, Kevlar metal to ceramic seals, beryllium oxide ceramics or tungsten disks.

The different wavelengths work together either simultaneously or individually. It has nine different wavelengths, and two of them are the most powerful and most commonly used. The most powerful wavelengths are in the blue and blue and green regions. The argon gas laser operates in continuous wave mode and can work in very rapid, short duration pulses.


Working with Argon Gas Lasers

When working with an argon gas laser, one must wear eye protection. There are special argon laser glasses or goggles that correlate with the operating laser. Operating or being around Class 3B or Class 4 lasers are crucial for wearing protective eyewear. These classes of laser are high powered and can cause permanent damage unless prevented with the appropriate safety measures.

The wavelength of the laser has 100,000 times the chance of injuring the skin. The efficiency of the laser varies from about 0.01% to 0.1% and can average about 0.02%. To get an output, there must be a large amount of power applied to the laser. Inside the argon gas laser, you will find cooling fins on the outside of the tube, which is one way the heat gets dissipated during the laser process. Another cooling method is the water jacket. The water jacket surrounds the tube where water is forced through the jacket to cool the tube. This method is the most commonly used in high-powered argon gas lasers.

Above all, it is important to note that an argon gas laser offers tremendous possibility in current applications as well as future ones that may not yet have been identified. As long as the user follows reasonable safety precautions, they are also considered quite safe.


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