A Surgical Semiconductor Laser With More Precision And Power

By making some simple modifications to semiconductor lasers, a pair of University of Rochester researchers has devised a way to make them perform with the power and precision that laser surgeons routinely demand. These small, relatively inexpensive lasers might replace more powerful and costly gas lasers in treating a variety of medical conditions: removing warts, moles, unwanted hair, and tumors, for instance, performing gum surgery, or treating glaucoma.

The work, done by graduate student John Marciante and Professor of Optics Govind Agrawal, was presented last week at the annual meeting of the Optical Society of America in Rochester.

Most laser surgery today is done using more powerful and expensive gas lasers, since their semiconductor counterparts usually lack the power necessary for most surgery. The Rochester work cleans up the beam produced by a semiconductor laser, creating a sharply focused beam with more power and precision than the beams produced by most such lasers.

"This sounds like a very useful technology for surgery," says Raymond Lanzafame, director of Rochester General Hospital's Laser Center and a practitioner of laser surgery. "The boost in power provided by this technology could make a single semiconductor laser an option for many procedures where other types of lasers are currently used. If you've got a high-quality beam and a high power output, this offers a convenient alternative for use in the operating room."

The useful power output of semiconductor lasers is limited by the tendency of their beams to fragment into a number of parallel but weaker beams. This doesn't pose a problem for applications that don't require much power, such as laser printers or supermarket

Contact: Stephen Bradt
University of Rochester

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