Laser Science Projects
Laser Safety Overview
All laser light show systems have intrinsic dangers. Observation of basic laser safety rules and the specific safety regulations of the jurisdiction in which you operate the laser are essential.
This page is a brief overview of laser safety, for more detailed information see the Laser Safety pages.
A laser can be considered as a highly
collimated source of extremely intense electromagnetic radiation.
Due to the temporal and spatial coherence of the laser beam it can be
considered as a point source of phenomenal brightness than can easily
exceed the brightness of the sun. Lasers are a more directional light
source than any other common fixture such as stage lights or a
follow-spot. The higher the optical output power of the laser, the
greater the potential hazard.
The danger from lasers can be divided into the following major categories:
NEVER point a laser at someone's eyes no matter how low power the laser.
Eye damage can also occur
when laser beams are scanned across the eye even for very brief periods.
The amount of exposure is difficult to estimate as 'dwell' or 'transit'
time must be taken into account in your calculations. For example a 1 mW
laser illuminating a 7 mm aperture (the average size of the dark adapted
iris) for one second is the equivalent of a 10 mW laser illuminating the
same 7 mm aperture for 1/10 of a second. The international
laser safety standard, IEC-825, defines a short exposure as 2.5 mW per
square centimeter. Each jurisdiction has it's own maximum exposure
levels for laser radiation.
HIGH VOLTAGES CAN KILL YOU !!
Fire and Flood Hazards
BASIC SAFETY PRECAUTIONS
NEVER point a laser in someone's eyes, even low power hand held units can cause eye damage due to the focusing effect of the lens in the eye.
NEVER use mirrors or watch crystals to deflect static laser beams as you can cause eye damage to yourself or other spectators.
NEVER float Mylar coated balloons these into the beam paths above the audience as they can cause unexpected reflections of the beam into people's eyes.
NEVER deflect laser beams with hand held mirrors as they are difficult to control and can direct beams in unexpected ways causing eye damage.
NEVER track a moving vehicle such as a car or aircraft with a laser, even a very low power hand held HeNe unit or laser pointer. With higher power units you may temporarily blind the operator or destroy their night vision. Even low power lasers may cause a distraction of the driver/pilot leading to an accident.
To eliminate skin burns, don't stick your body parts into high power laser beams.
When working on the electrical systems of
lasers, use the 'buddy' system. In the event that you come in contact
with a live high voltage AC power line, your muscles will spasm making
it difficult or impossible to let go of the line. Your 'buddy' should
use a broom stick to whack your hand off the power terminals.
This page is a summary of laser safety information - for more details, see the Laser Safety pages.
[ Introduction | Bibliography | Glossary of Terminology | Laser safety overview | Other applications of lasers | Selected laser related web sites | Basic laser science projects | Intermediate laser science projects | Advanced laser science projects | Illustrations for laser science projects ]
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