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An excimer laser (sometimes, and more correctly, called an exciplex laser) is a form of ultraviolet laser which is commonly used in eye surgery and semiconductor manufacturing. The term excimer is short for 'excited dimer', while exciplex is short for 'excited complex'. An excimer laser typically uses a combination of an inert gas (argon, krypton, or xenon) and a reactive gas (fluorine or chlorine). Under the appropriate conditions of electrical stimulation, a pseudo-molecule called an excimer (or in case of noble gas halides, exciplex) is created, which can only exist in an energized state and can give rise to laser light in the ultraviolet range.

The UV light from an excimer laser is well absorbed by biological matter and organic compounds. Rather than burning or cutting material, the excimer laser adds enough energy to disrupt the molecular bonds of the surface tissue, which effectively disintegrates into the air in a tightly controlled manner through ablation rather than burning. Thus excimer lasers have the useful property that they can remove exceptionally fine layers of surface material with almost no heating or change to the remainder of the material which is left intact. These properties make excimer lasers well suited to precision micromachining organic material (including certain polymers and plastics), or delicate surgeries such as eye surgery LASIK.

Excimer lasers Edit

The first excimer laser was invented in 1970 by Nikolai Basov, V. A. Danilychev and Yu. M. Popov, at the Lebedev Physical Institute in Moscow, using a xenon dimer (Xe2) excited by an electron beam to give stimulated emission at 172 nm wavelength. A later improvement, developed by many groups in 1975 was the use of noble gas halides (originally XeBr). These groups include the United States Government's Naval Research Laboratory, the Northrop Research and Technology Center, the Avco Everett Research Laboratory, and Sandia Laboratories.

Laser action in an excimer molecule occurs because it has a bound (associative) excited state, but a repulsive (disassociative) ground state. This is because noble gases such as xenon and krypton are highly inert and do not usually form chemical compounds. However, when in an excited state (induced by an electrical discharge or high-energy electron beams, which produce high energy pulses), they can form temporarily-bound molecules with themselves (dimers) or with halogens (complexes) such as fluorine and chlorine. The excited compound can give up its excess energy by undergoing spontaneous or stimulated emission, resulting in a strongly-repulsive ground state molecule which very quickly (on the order of a picosecond) disassociates back into two unbound atoms. This forms a population inversion between the two states.

Most "excimer" lasers are of the noble gas halide type, for which the term excimer is strictly speaking a misnomer (since a dimer refers to a molecule of two identical or similar parts): The correct but less commonly used name for such is exciplex laser.

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