In this BBC News video received by the Examiner on or about Oct. 9, 2013 a South African research group has developed a working "digital laser". According to the South African researchers this bandwidth-changing digital laser is "the very first". It is momentous and necessary work that is just filtering to our media now. The work was done by the CSIR (South African Council on Scientific and Industrial Research). The work had been published in Nature Communications 4, No. 2289, Aug. 2, 2013. It was later reported on Sept. 17, 2013 on the CSIR site. Much credit is due to Sandile Ngcobo who appears to love working on lasers.
Dr. Andrew Forbes is also credited in the BBC News video. Why is a bandwidth-changing digital laser important - especially to digital communications? The scientists at the CSIR recognized that the digital world is about to collide with a "bandwidth crunch" - the crunch can significantly impact the performance/production of digital devices. The bandwidth crunch was previously reported by The Examiner in "The gadget crunch". In today's case with the digital laser "digital control" is achieved inside the laser. Lasers are typically constructed with mirrors to create a simple "optical cavity".
The CSIR group replaced one mirror with an LCD and this appears to have created the internal digital control. An image is delivered to the LCD - "as in a television" - and the shape of the laser beam changes as a result. That resulting change is desirable only if the sent image is "appropriate". The bandwidth/image change is important only if it can be piped to the receiving end. Dr. Forbes predicts a "limitless" amount of bandwidth/images can be achieved in this manner. It might be quite a mathematical problem to prove just that! But, his logic sounds good - and the sea change coming from this could be very important.
Sandile revealed that the needed images were sent to the laser LCD via computer. He proved the work and provided a graph of it to Dr. Forbes. The success lay in the LCD install, the time given the research and the graphical images. The laser video demonstration appears to have been done with an IPG Photonics device. Amazing that a relatively "simple idea" of replacing a laser mirror with an LCD has created the first working digital bandwidth-changing laser.