Science Shows Green Lasers Might Be More Than You Bargained For

This may come as a shock, but some of those hot screaming deals on China-sourced gadgets and goodies are not all they appear. After you plunk down your pittance and wait a few weeks for the package to arrive, you just might find that you didn’t get exactly what you thought you ordered. Or worse, you may get a product with unwanted bugs features, like some green lasers that also emit strongly in the infrared wavelengths.

Sure, getting a free death ray in addition to your green laser sounds like a bargain, but as [Brainiac75] points out, it actually represents a dangerous situation. He knows whereof he speaks, having done a thorough exploration of a wide range of cheap (and not so cheap) lasers in the video below. He explains that the paradox of an ostensibly monochromatic source emitting two distinct wavelengths comes from the IR laser at the heart of the diode-pumped solid state (DPSS) laser inside the pointer. The process is only about 48% efficient, meaning that IR leaks out along with the green light. The better quality DPSS laser pointers include a quality IR filter to remove it; cheaper ones often fail to include this essential safety feature. What wavelengths you’re working with are critical to protecting your eyes; indeed, the first viewer comment in the video is from someone who seared his retina with a cheap green laser while wearing goggles only meant to block the higher frequency light.

It’s a sobering lesson, but an apt one given the ubiquity of green lasers these days. Be safe out there; educate yourself on how lasers work and take a look at our guide to laser safety. Continue reading “Science Shows Green Lasers Might Be More Than You Bargained For”

Lasers, Mirrors, and Sensors Combine in an Optical Bench Game

Who would have thought you could make a game out of an optical bench? [Chris Mitchell] did, and while we were skeptical at first, his laser Light Bender game has some potential. Just watch your eyes.

The premise is simple: direct the beam of a colored laser to the correct target before time runs out. [Chris] used laser-cut acrylic for his playfield, which has nine square cutouts arranged in a grid. Red, green, and blue laser pointers line the bottom of the grid, with photosensors and RGB LEDs lining the grid on the other three sides. Play starts with a random LED lighting up in one of the three colors, acting as a target. The corresponding color laser comes on, and the player has to insert mirrors or pass-through blocks in the grid to create a path to the target. The faster you hit the CdS cell, the higher your score. It’s simple, but it looks really engaging. We can imagine all sorts of upgrades, like lighting up two different targets at once, or adding a beamsplitter block to hit two targets with the same color. Filters and polarizers could add to the optical fun too.

We like builds that are just for fun, especially when they’re well-crafted and have a slight air of danger. The balloon-busting killbots project we featured recently comes to mind.

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Laser Pointer Clock Makes Timekeeping A Drawn-Out Affair

Designing a unique clock to flex your technical skills can be a rewarding experience and result in an admirable showpiece for your home. [Andres Robam] saw an opportunity to make a laser-pointer clock that draws the current time onto a glow-in-the-dark sticker.

A pair of stepper motors tilt and pan the laser’s mount — designed in SolidWorks and 3D printed. There was an issue with the motor’s shaft having some slack in it — enough to affect the accuracy of the laser. [Andres] cleverly solved the issue by using a pen’s spring to generate enough tension in the system, correcting it. A NODEmcu v2 is the brains of the clock — chosen because of its built-in WiFi capacity and compatibility with the Arduino IDE — and a 5mW laser sketches the time onto the sticker.

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Measure Laser Wavelength with a CD and a Tape Measure

Obviously the wavelength of a laser can’t be measured with a scale as large as that of a carpenter’s tape measure. At least not directly and that’s where a Compact Disc comes in. [Styropyro] uses a CD as a diffraction grating which results in an optical pattern large enough to measure.

A diffraction grating splits a beam of light up into multiple beams whose position is determined by both the wavelength of the light and the properties of the grating. Since we don’t know the properties of the grating (the CD) to start, [Styropyro] uses a green laser as reference. This works for a couple of reasons; the green laser’s properties don’t change with heat and it’s wavelength is already known.

It’s all about the triangles. Well, really it’s all about the math and the math is all about the triangles. For those that don’t rock out on special characters [Styropyro] does a great job of not only explaining what each symbol stands for, but applying it (on camera in video below) to the control experiment. Measure the sides of the triangle, then use simple trigonometry to determine the slit distance of the CD. This was the one missing datum that he turns around and uses to measure and determine his unknown laser wavelength.

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High Speed Laser Based Camera Flash Trigger for Only $2

[Matt Kane] works at a really cool company in the UK where he recently finished working on the Triggertrap Ada — the highest-performance, most feature packed camera trigger out there. So just for fun, he decided to challenge himself again — could he make a super basic, super fast, bare-bones camera trigger for $2 instead?

At the most basic level this is just a laser pointer and a light sensor. When the object your photographing breaks the light path, the flash triggers. Typically this is done with an IR laser, but since he’s going for a low-cost system, he’ll use a basic 1mw red laser pointer — the only downfall is you might see it in the picture.

Next up is the sensor. Ideally we’d use a photodiode which is very fast, but also expensive. A photoresistor is cheap, but not fast enough. A nice medium between the two is a phototransistor, which is relatively fast, and cheap. Finally, we need a minimum trigger period to offset the flash. [Matt] thought about using a 555 timer but instead decided to just generate a pulse with an Attiny45.  Continue reading “High Speed Laser Based Camera Flash Trigger for Only $2”

Hackaday Links: February 23, 2014


You can pick up a tiny laser pointer on the cheap if you know where to look. But when it comes time to replace the multiple button cells that power it be prepared to clean our your wallet. [KB3WZZ] got around that with the cap from a ball-point pen. He drilled holes in the end plug of the pointer, and used wire and a plastic pen cap as a battery adapter. He’s powering it from USB, but now that you have wires exiting the case you can use any source you wish.

[Gerben] tipped us off about the trinket clone he built himself. It’s a tiny sliver of a PCB which he etched, populated with through-hole parts only, and finished off with some finger nail varnish to prevent shorting and corrosion. The solder-covered edge connector for USB was left unvarnished of course.

If you live in a college town you are probably quite used to seeing futon pads and frames on the curb waiting for the garbage collector. A little bit of ingenuity, and some added lumber, will turn a futon frame into a respectable shelving unit. [Thanks Martin]

Complicated bench equipment + good lighting + a great camera = an awesome teardown. This time around it’s the guts of a Keithly 2002 8.5 digit mulitimeter laid bare. [Thanks David]

Here’s a PCB laminator hack that is definitely worth a look. The original unit was acquired on eBay for about $25 and had a thermostat whose performance wasn’t optimal. A bit of alteration for the thickness of the substrate, and you’ll never hand iron a toner transfer board again! [Thanks William]

Last summer we heard about Scout, an ocean-going drone trying to cross the Atlantic. We just checked the live tracking and the craft is still at sea. But a much smaller 5ft vessel made it from New Jersey to Guernsey (an island between the UK and France) after traveling for about 14 months. [Thanks Rob]

Laser toting robot taunts house cat


[Rodney Lederer] and his cat were bored after moving to a new city. He fixed that for both of them by taking on this project which turns a Wowwee robot into feline entertainment.

It’s no secret that cats have a weakness for the little red dot produced by a laser pointer. [Rodney] put that trait to work by automating the movement of a red laser pointer. After mounting it on a servo motor he got down to work programming an Arduino to move it in a playful manner. But it wouldn’t have been much fun if the this was only capable of preprogrammed patterns, so he also included an IR proximity sensor to help give the thing interactivity. Add to that the treaded robot base and you’ve got mobile cat entertainment. The proof is in the video after the break… the cat is certainly having fun chasing the dot. [Rodney] plans to work a bit more on his code so that the motions of the laser dot include a lot of different patterns to keep things exciting.

Continue reading “Laser toting robot taunts house cat”