While at a LaserMax media event, I learned a lot about lasers. Like most everything else with a battery or plug, the technology is evolving at a dizzying rate. One of the things I learned was that green lasers aren’t green. Actually, they’re invisible (to the human eye) as they are derived from infrared light.
Allow me to explain. To produce green laser light, you need to shoot an infrared laser beam through some seriously mysterious conversion crystals. It’s a process called diode pumped solid-state technology or DPSS for short. The invisible infrared light goes in one end of the crystals and comes out the other side green. It’s a process called “magic.” Make sense?
While DPSS works, and does produce bright and easy-to-see green light, there are some drawbacks.
First, those magic crystals add bulk and weight. Not much, but when you’re trying to build a laser device small enough to work on a gun, every little bit counts. Think about those Ghostbusters Proton Packs. While not technically lasers, they generated some awesome light shows, but required a full-sized backpack particle accelerator. That would never be practical on a carry pistol as concealment would require a cover garment the size of a Volkswagen Beetle.
The other consideration is efficiency of the DPSS system itself. At high and low temperature extremes, the conversion process starts to break down and the light becomes less effective. For example, standard DPSS lasers (which use the crystal conversion process) operate beautifully at temperatures between 40 and 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Those temperatures don’t cover the full range or normal field environments. Any area north of the Florida border is likely to experience near freezing temperatures for a large part of the year. And while 100 degrees sounds like a reasonable top end, think of our men and women deployed in sandboxes around the world, where temperatures reach 120 degrees. Or, consider interior environments like those spooky shipping containers and warehouses prevalent on TV crime dramas. Those non-air-conditioned places get insanely hot in the summer, right?
Native Green lasers generate green light right off the bat using a green laser diode. With a native green light source, there is no need for the extra bulk of crystals to convert the light beam to green. Additionally, the effective temperature operating boundaries are extended. For example, a Native Green laser retains operating efficiency all the way down to 15 degrees Fahrenheit. At the high-end, they continue to generate bright green light up to about 150 degrees.