AShort History of
L a ser
For almost as long as visible-wavelength lasers have
existed, artists have been inspired by their potential to
create stunning visual displays.
s the clock ticked toward the end of the first half of Super Bowl
XLIV, two teams huddled on the sidelines, waiting for the signal.
Each had a single objective and a tight timeframe for achieving their goal.
But they weren’t looking to score a touchdown. Rather, these teams were
the special-e;ects technicians for the halftime show. ;ey had nine minutes to
ensure that 16 powerful lasers were hooked up and safely aligned to a 40-sec-
tion platform in preparation for a laser show to accompany the performance of
the rock group the Who.
More than 100 million people watched the Feb. 7, 2010, performance on
television, making it one of the most-viewed laser shows ever. ;e special e;ects
teams set up two “laser compounds,” one at each 35-yard line on the New
Orleans Saints’ side of the gridiron. Each compound had two 50-W Nd:YAG
pulsed lasers, cooled with a recirculating-water chiller, plus two air-cooled,
full-spectrum units: a 25-W optically pumped semiconductor (OPS) laser and a
13-W diode-pumped solid-state (DPSS) RGB laser.
Laser shows have always held a universal appeal. People from all over the
world have enjoyed them at planetariums, concerts, corporate meetings and other
venues. In the United States, outdoor laser displays dance across the faces of the
Grand Coulee Dam in Washington and Stone Mountain in Georgia. ;ey illuminate the pyramids of Giza in Egypt and the night sky above the Hong Kong business district. Coherent beams of color formed pictures of Olympic athletes against
the side of the Sydney Opera House in 2000, and, at the 2010 Olympic Winter
Games in Vancouver, 20 lasers were used in a nightly light show in which people
from around the world controlled the beams through public Internet access.
42 | OPN Optics & Photonics News