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Lasers 101: What is a Laser?

LASER is an acronym which stands for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. The energy generated by the laser is in or near the optical portion of the electromagnetic spectrum (see Figure 1). Energy is amplified to extremely high intensity by an atomic process called stimulated emission. The color of laser light is normally expressed in terms of the laser's wavelength: nanometer (nm) is the most common unit used.

Figure 1: The optical spectrum. Laser light is non-ionizing and ranges from the ultra-violet (100-400nm), visible (400-700nm), and infrared (700nm-1mm).

Laser Hazards & Beam Hazards

The laser produces an intense, highly directional beam of light. If directed, reflected, or focused upon an object, laser light will be partially absorbed, raising the temperature of the surface and/or the interior of the object, potentially causing an alteration or deformation of the material. Lasers can also cause tissue damage. Today, most high-power lasers are designed to minimize access to laser radiation during normal operation. Lower-power lasers may emit levels of laser light that are not a hazard.

Laser Hazards Classification

The Center for Devices and Radiological Health, a division of the Food and Drug Administration regulates the manufacturing and classification of laser products. The laser classes help group lasers by their hazard potential, and identifies these classes based on their optical emission (wavelength, exposure time, output power).

General Guidelines for CW Laser Classification


The information mentioned here is intended to be an introduction to lasers and laser safety, and should not be considered to be an authoritarian guide. A better informed user has the knowledge to make safer decisions: learn about safety procedures for your class of laser, and the next class higher.


An excellent source for laser safety is the Laser Institute of America. Very useful resources include their web based Safety Bulletin, and printed Laser Safety Guide.

BEA Lasers is a Corporate Member of the Laser Institute of America.

BEA Lasers is a division of BEA Electro Sales, Inc.

Lasers 101: Technical Terms.

Light from green lasers is 7 times more visible to the human eye than red laser light!

If you have high ambient light conditions, green laser diode modules are the choice for you.

Green laser light is significantly brighter than red laser light. All other factors being equal, the unaided human eye will perceive green laser light as 8 times brighter than the common red laser (at 650nm). Green lasers are being adopted as a replacement for red lasers. Along with increased visibility, many OEMs are enjoying the benefits of offering green lasers as a premium option.

When paired with a BEA Lasers Diffractive Optical Element, our Ruggedized Industrial Laser Diode Modules will aid in targeting, alignment and positioning applications.

BEA's Laser Diode Modules are factory-set to FDA-Approved Power Levels (<5mw, class IIIa) to comply with Section 21 DFR Part 1040.10-11.

Lasers 101

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