Carrots are no longer just the scourge of toddlers and fuel for Bugs Bunny. Researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology – Madras (IIT-M) have used the vegetable to create a laser. That’s right, pew! pew!, a laser.
This gets a little (read: a lot) above my pay grade, but the New Indian Express reports that the IIT-M researchers have used carrots cooked in alcohol as an eco-friendly lasing material. The discovery came about when Professor C Vijayan, Assistant Professor Sivarama Krishnan, and PhD researcher Venkata Siva Gummaluri were having after-work hours fun “pumping light” through a variety of organic materials.
What made carrots work well was the carotenoids, which are an optically active bio-pigment found in the vegetable. The cellulose fibers in carrots were also beneficial for optical amplification and photo scattering and other stuff that I, a non-physicist, do not fully understand, but that’s less important because it’s carrots creating lasers.
Before you think this is just a goofy discovery, the New Indian Express explains why this orange-hued breakthrough could be important:
The laser generated through this technique, has immense potential in the field of bio-imaging. Currently, the most common lasing materials, such as Indium-Gallium-Arsenic and Gallium-Nitrates, are manufactured using toxic chemical processes which are harmful to the environment.
In other words, as the researchers point out, this green (err, orange) lasing material is safe to handle and can even be eaten after a day of experiments. What’s up doc, indeed.