This project has encompassed so many topics, disciplines, and sources over the years that I am no longer able to keep it straight in my mind. The purpose of this website is to store my collected information and ideas in connection with my CO2 laser project.
I hope that it will also serve as a reliable reference to tinkerers everywhere.
Sam’s Laser FAQ
Laser Kinetics Consulting Services
Time Fracture’s John Doran
Tesla Coil Mailing List
Georgia State University’s HyperPhysics
LTSpiceIV - Linear Technology’s Spice Circuit Simulator
Kansas State University’s Laser Adventure
Professor Mark Csele's discussion of Quantum Mechanics (for Dummies!)
There is nothing Earth-shattering, cutting-edge, or even interesting to most people about my laser project. Nevertheless, the development of a laboratory-grade CO2 laser has consumed the bulk of my extra thinking time and spending money.
The project consists of four major components: (1) optical resonator, (2) high voltage power supply, (3) current regulator, and (4) gas handling apparatus. The remainder of this website will be divided into these four categories, with the specific knowledge acquired during each phase listed there.
I’ve adopted Trogdor the Burninator as the project’s mascot. References to him can be found in the project logo and printed on the current regulator PCB.
I learned long ago not to suggest dangerous ideas to some people.
Humanity may be split into two general groups: Those who would, after learning how to do it from me, fill up a tennis ball with strike-anywhere match heads, seal it up, and throw it in their apartment; and those who would at least step outside first. This project is not for the former.
High voltage and water, big filter capacitors and fingers, zinc selenide dust and lungs, carbon dioxide and lungs, not to mention infrared laser light and almost anything unintended. These are just some things that must be in close proximity but never touch. If you are not absolutely certain that you can keep these things apart, don’t risk it.
Project Progress and Photos
First Stable Discharge
Found this small neon tube on eBay. It was only supposed to be driven at around 35μA. Previous tests, of which I conspicuously have no photos, repeatedly resulted in a failure of the main case fan. This would immediately cause me to abort the experiment so as to protect the 3-500Z.
This is the first time that the power supply and current regulator lit and controlled a small neon lamp! The little tube started at around 10kV, dropped around 1.3kV, and passed a little less that 1mA. After five tries at such a high current, this little lamp gave up the ghost. But not before doing its duty.
First Fault-free Test
After reading this excellent article on gas discharges, I've determined that the biggest trouble I was having was trying to run the tubes at insufficient current. This seems to have resulted in a nasty oscillation that probably freaked out the main fan controller. The new AC fan runs like a champ, keeping the tube cool!
Soon I will put the O-scope to the FET drain and we'll see what the drive circuit is really doing, voltage-wise.