Laser technology is always awesome, but people just keep on upping the ante when it comes to how awesome it is. Case in point: Researchers at the Center for Laser Applications at the University of Tennessee have developed femtolasers that can be used not just to burn out cancer from victims, but to find, map out and non-invasively destroy tumors. That’s pretty hot stuff.
A femtolaser is an extremely high-speed laser; it pulses laser light at one-quadrillionth of a second. For an idea of just how small 1 quadrillionth is, check out this image that illustrates 1 quadrillion pennies to scale.
The high speed allows very precise mapping, and then they can turn up the intensity of the radiation to burn off the tumor. The speed helps that along too, as the precision allows them to focus more precisely on what they’re trying to get rid of without injuring things they don’t want to burn.
This was explained very well by Christian Parigger, one of the inventors of the technology. “Because the femtosecond laser radiation can be precisely focused both spatially and temporally, one can avoid heating up too many other things that you do not want heated. Using longer laser-light pulses is similar to leaving a light bulb on, which gets warm and can damage healthy tissue.”