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    Timelines – Lasers

    Inception – Stimulated Emission (1917): Albert Einstein proposed the theory of stimulated emission, the fundamental principle behind lasers. This ground-breaking concept outlined that an excited atom could emit light of a specific wavelength when disturbed by a similar photon.

    First Theoretical Model (1954): Charles Hard Townes, working with his students Gordon Gould and Arthur Schawlow, produced a theoretical model for a device they termed a Maser. The microwave precursor to the laser.

    First Functional Laser (1960): Theodore H. Maiman of Hughes Research Laboratories was the first to build a functioning laser. This pioneering design was based around a ruby crystal which, when excited by a helical flashlamp, emitted photons to create a coherent beam of light.

    Gas Lasers (1962): Ali Javan invented the helium-neon laser. Other gas lasers, specifically CO2 lasers, were developed in following years. These lasers marked a significant step as they proved to be efficient in delivering higher levels of output power, which had diverse applications in cutting, welding, and marking materials.

    Semiconductor Diode Lasers Development (1962): Robert N. Hall invented the semiconductor laser, which uses semiconductor material instead of a gas or liquid.

    Laser Disc Technology (1978): The introduction of commercial LaserDisc technology dramatically changed the way audio and visual information was stored, launched by MCA DiscoVision in the United States.

    Medical Use (1981): The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first argon laser photocoagulator for ophthalmic use in 1981. Since then, lasers have been used in numerous medical procedures including refractive eye surgery, cancer treatment, and dermatological procedures.

    Optical Storage – CD (1982): Philips and Sony launched the first commercial compact disc player. The device employed an infrared laser to read the tiny grooves on the reflective CD surface.

    Telecommunications (1988): Fiber optic cables, carrying laser-generated pulses of light, started being used for telecommunications. The vast majority of our digital data is transmitted using this technology today.

    Femtosecond Lasers (1990): Ultrafast lasers, capable of emitting pulses in the femtosecond (one quadrillionth of a second) range, were first constructed in the 1990s and have since played a significant role in basic scientific research.

    Laser Scanners (1992): Widespread commercial use of laser scanning and printing technology in the 90s revolutionized the way we work, enabling faster paper management and printing capabilities.

    Green Laser Pointers (1997): The first green laser pointers were introduced and became a popular tool for presentations.

    Laser Cooling (1997): The Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded to Steven Chu, Claude Cohen-Tannoudji, and William D. Phillips for the development of methods to cool and trap atoms with laser light.

    Laser Fusion Energy (2010): The National Ignition Facility (NIF) achieved a milestone in its quest for fusion energy by delivering over a megajoule of laser energy to a target, setting a world record.

    Fiber Lasers (2010s): Fiber lasers, traceable back to Elias Snitzer’s early experiments in the 1960s, found major commercial success in the 2010s. High-powered fiber lasers can be used for cutting and welding steel, marking parts, and other industrial tasks.

    3D Printing (Current): Presently, lasers are undeniably a significant component of 3D printing technology, utilized for sintering a variety of materials. Laser-based 3D printing has provided significant value in many industries, including healthcare and manufacturing.

    Quantum Computing (Current): Lasers are used increasingly in current research into quantum computing, specifically to control qubits and create quantum gates.