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Laser Plasma Channels Power Paper Airplane

Photonics Spectra
Feb 2006
A research team at the Institute of Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing has used self-guided plasma channels created in air by a femtosecond laser to propel a 1.32-g paper airplane along an air-cushion track. The work, which the team reported in the Dec. 26 issue of Optics Express, suggests that continuous focusing of the laser is not necessary in off-board propulsion schemes, which are being considered as a means of maximizing payloads in tiny, ultralight aircraft.

In the experiments, the investigators used a home-built Ti:sapphire chirped-pulse amplification system operating at a repetition rate of 10 Hz to generate 30-fs pulses of 800-nm radiation with energies of up to 640 mJ. The optical Kerr effect in air results in self-focusing of the pulse train, which photoionizes the air to produce the meters-long plasma channels, and a detonation wave that can propel targets in a length of the channels.

femtosecond laser
A type of ultrafast laser that creates a minimal amount of heat-affected zones by having a pulse duration below the picosecond level, making the technology ideal for micromachining, medical device fabrication, scientific research, eye surgery and bioimaging.
As We Go To PressBreaking NewsChinese Academy of Sciencesfemtosecond laserplasma channelsPresstime Bulletinlasers

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