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June 18th, 2010
The new "dark pulse laser" was developed by scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the research institute JILA in Boulder, CO. The NIST laser emits light punctuated with extremely short bursts of darkness. "Think of it as a continuous wave laser, except with a really fast shutter," says Richard Mirin, a scientist at NIST.
This shutter creates dark pulses that last 90 picoseconds. This speed of operation could help scientists probe ultrafast chemical and biological reactions. A dark pulse laser could also be used in a fiber-optic telecommunication scheme where information would be encoded as dark pulses, which tend to be able to travel long distances without degrading in quality.
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