Science Questions

Can lasers be harmful?

Sun, 13th Jun 2010

Listen Now    Download as mp3 from the show 50 years of Lasers


Dom, Newmarket asked:

If lasers give off extreme heat and if you come into contact with them, can they be harmful?


We posed this question to Graham Hirst from the STFC Central Laser Facility...

Graeme -  Well some do.  Itís not just true of laser light.  In fact, youíll know that if you got one of those really, really powerful torches, you're warned not to put your hand directly in front of it,  it will also be giving off a lot of heat.  That really reflects the fact that heat - in the form of thermal radiation - and light are just the same sort of stuff.  If you like, light goes blue, green, yellow, orange, red, infrared, heat.  You can get lasers that work in the heat part of the spectrum as well.  Some of them have very long wavelength indeed, cutting and welding lasers for instance will put out 10,000 watts of heat at the most powerful end.


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