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YouTube Phenom Builds Lasers From Spare Parts

Photonics Spectra
Apr 2018
AUTUM C. PYLANT, NEWS EDITOR, autum.pylant@photonics.com

Drake Anthony calls himself a professional mad scientist on YouTube. That’s because … well … he sort of is.

Anthony has built his own lasers since he was 12, when he first took apart a green laser pointer, modified it and made it stronger.

Today, viewers of his styropyro YouTube channel can see a number of his laser building exploits.

Drake Anthony and his real burning homemade lightsaber.

Drake Anthony and his real burning homemade lightsaber. Courtesy of Styropyro.

Combining the two scenarios that his fans want to see — blowing things up and science — the YouTube sensation has built a 13-kJ ruby laser cannon, similar to the first laser ever built, with a ruby crystal surrounded by a lamp and reflector, and two special-coated mirrors for optical amplification. He’s also built a 200-W laser bazooka, a thick-beam 5-W red laser, a 40-W laser shotgun and a real burning lightsaber … just to name a few of his DIY homemade lasers.

Anthony told Photonics Media that most of his videos are of giant lasers that he’s made at home from scrap parts, such as DVD burners and projectors.

“I built this giant ruby laser recently, and it’s an extremely powerful pulsed laser that can blow up a glass bottle,” Anthony said. “I could source this ruby crystal, but I couldn’t just use regular mirrors on it because they would vaporize in that extreme intense field.

That’s where custom optics manufacturer Esco Optics steps in. Anthony isn’t exactly their normal customer, but they sought him out online as a way to promote the sciences and mathematics, the core of what they do in service to their customers.

“Being that he manufactures things that are so unique and of such high power, standard off-the-shelf optics aren’t necessarily going to work for his applications,” said Esco Optics sales representative William Hill. “With our custom capabilities we’re able to produce the optics that are going to work on his systems and not have them basically be vaporized.”

For the giant ruby laser, Esco Optics made mirrors that did not vaporize. In fact, they withstood 50 kW of laser light.

Giant ruby laser.

Giant ruby laser. Courtesy of Styropyro.


“I like doing these crazy contraptions of science — it displays good things about science, but at the same time it’s entertaining,” Anthony said.

Anthony has been uploading videos of his homemade lasers to YouTube since 2006.

Now 25, he has gained quite the following on his YouTube channel (which started out as a way to share his lasers in online forums) with more than 446,000 faithful tuning in.

Pyrotechnics, chemistry, lasers and a lot of explosions — that’s what you’ll find on the self-proclaimed professional mad scientist’s styropyro YouTube channel. You can also see some of his exploits on Light Matters Extra at photonics.com.

GLOSSARY
ruby laser
The optically pumped, solid-state laser that uses sapphire as the host lattice and chromium as the active ion. The emission takes place in the red portion of the spectrum.
Lighter SideeducationResearch & TechnologyAutum PylantstyropyroYouTubeLight MattersLight Matters ExtralasersDrake Anthonyruby laserlaser bazookared laserlaser shotgunlightsabergiant lasersdiode lasersfiber laserspulsed laserstuneable lasersopticslensesmirrorsaspheresesco opticsWilliam Hilllight sources

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