Gas Laser Science Project: A Short history & Safety

Children of every age who have to come up with an original idea for a science project typically run into the same problem every year. In fact, to them, it probably seems as if someone has built or experimented with a portion of every idea they come up with for a project. For example:

  • The erupting volcano with streaming lava? It’s been done.
  • Build a flying saucer that proves UFOs are possible? That’s been done too.
  • Make a potato light up a light bulb? You guessed it – that’s also been done– many times, in fact.

A New Science Project Using an Old Idea

It certainly does seem like students from previous years have built – or attempted to build – every idea you’ve had for a science project, doesn’t it? You should approach the problem a bit differently in this case – have you given any thought to:

·  Recreating a previously built science project

·  Recreating a previously built technological device

·  Inventing something to solve an everyday problem

Inventions always make great science projects, especially if the invention solves a problem that people experience every day of their lives. Solving peoples’ problems is how many inventors become famous and make money. A number of scientists have become famous by recreating others’ ideas, or improving them as well. Have you given thought to this approach?

You could always recreate the volcano, but use different chemicals to crate the smoke and lava. Alternatively, you could create a flying saucer that isn’t saucer shaped. On the other hand, have you given thought to recreating older projects? For example, what do you think about recreating Adam?

No – not the movie with the title ‘Adam,’ but the ‘Adam” laser or, more specifically, the laser that some scientists have called the “granddaddy of all science projects.” 

Short History of How Science Discovered the Adam Laser

Built in 1960, the science world credits Dr. Ali Javan is credited with creating Adam, according to the American Institute of Physics Center for History of Physics, although in an 1985 interview with Jeff Hecht, Dr. Javan credits Charles Townes and his work on the “Maser” as the precursor that made Adam possible.

Dr. Javan later said in a 1996 interview with Betty Blair that Adam could have been created in the 1930s, since the technology existed then to do so. The Center for History of Physics agrees, and notes that at the time, the optical techniques and technologies required to make a laser were available, but because no one had thought to bring the technologies together, it wasn’t created until 1960.

According to the AIP, No one even began wondering if it were even possible until 1950, when scientists figured out how short wave radio worked, and what they could do to atoms in what scientists coined as “microwave spectroscopy.” This led to the creation of the Maser, which directly led to the creation of Adam, the very first gas laser ever built.

Safety Tips for Creating Adam

Safety should be the first thing on your mind before getting started. This is true for every science project you embark on. Specifically speaking, the laser’s output will determine the exact specifications of the safety equipment you use, but these general safety instructions should cover almost every home built science project.

Eye protection: Because of the light beams and pulses you’ll come into contact with, you’ll want to protect your eyes using something that can block UV rays. For this specific project, you’ll want to consider using a good quality pair of UV sunglasses made from polycarbonate (typical plastic).

However, because they’ll probably be ruined during the project, then you might not want to spend your money on good sunglasses. In this case, you can get a pair or two of industrial glasses that come with shatterproof lenses and a UV coating, just as long as the lenses are broad spectrum and can block out a wide range of UV light.

High Voltage Power & Radiation: All light and power sources give off radiation, so you’ll want to understand what it is that you’re working with before you start building anything. This is true of science projects that use lasers or projects that make volcanoes. In this case, you’ll wan to ensure that your equipment is heavy enough to endure the capacitor output, and that the charger is insulated properly.

If you do decide to build a laser, staying safe is crucial to a good outcome, whether you build the Adam, or a 3D laser to project onto the walls for a party. When building your laser – or any other thing you decide to built for your science project – keep in mind that there are three goals. The first is to learn about the world around us, the second is to learn to appreciate how the science works to make the world around us real, and the third is to have fun. As with any project you decide to create or recreate, following the instructions exactly is a crucial first step to completing all three of these goals.

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