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Femtosecond Lasers Used To Color Metals 166

Posted by kdawson
from the gold-ring-to-match-her-eyes dept.
Maximum Prophet writes "An optics professor and a postgrad have developed a way to use ultra-short pulses of laser light to etch nano features into the surface of metals so that they can absorb or reflect specific wavelengths of light. This is very similar to the way that butterflies get the color in their wings."
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Femtosecond Lasers Used To Color Metals

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  • WOW! (Score:5, Funny)

    by JoshEanes (1172285) on Friday February 01, 2008 @12:44PM (#22262616)
    wow, butterflies use high energy lasers to get the color on their wings!?!? now, we have to worry about lasers in the hands of the insects...
    • by Anonymous Coward
      without using the word "overlords?"
    • Re:WOW! (Score:5, Funny)

      by jollyreaper (513215) on Friday February 01, 2008 @01:16PM (#22263190)

      wow, butterflies use high energy lasers to get the color on their wings!?!?
      Not to self: don't fuck with butterflies.
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by BotnetZombie (1174935)

        Not to self: don't fuck with butterflies

        Double negative... Must - not - not - imagine - this - scenario
    • by sm62704 (957197)
      "This is very similar to the way that butterflies get the color in their wings."

      It's even more similar to the way CDs have rainbows on them.
    • by Like2Byte (542992)

      wow, butterflies use high energy lasers to get the color on their wings!?!? now, we have to worry about lasers in the hands of the insects...


      You think butterflies are bad? Wait until the sharks hear about this!!
    • by tm2b (42473)
      And I thought it was bad enough when they were controlling our weather by making hurricanes in the US when they flap in Beijing!
    • wow, butterflies use high energy lasers to get the color on their wings!?!?


      Forget the sharks !
      Let's make an army of butterflies with freakin' femto lasers on their head and take over the world with them.
    • by v1 (525388)
      I was just thinking what an interesting tag it would be to see for this article, "butterflies with lasers"
  • Butterflies... (Score:1, Redundant)

    by Farmer Tim (530755)
    ...use lasers? Scary!
    • Butterflies use lasers!?!? -_-
      • From the summary:

        This is very similar to the way that butterflies get the color in their wings.

        Oh sure, they're just using the lasers to etch colourful designs onto their wings now, but give the little buggers a chance and they'll scale up the energy output. It's them or us, I tells you!
  • by moogied (1175879) on Friday February 01, 2008 @12:47PM (#22262658)
    Perhaps the end to automotive paint?? Just throw clear coat over the chagned metal...
    • yep I'm sure going over the car with a laser scalpel will be much cheaper than using paint!
      • by psbrogna (611644) on Friday February 01, 2008 @12:51PM (#22262742)
        It might be cheaper given the cost of disposing of hazardous waste associated with conventional painting processes.
        • It might be cheaper given the cost of disposing of hazardous waste associated with conventional painting processes

          Because the health and environmental problems cause expenses for body shops and manufacturers (like needing to give employees expensive respirators, special filters, etc)...paint companies have been going to more and more eco-friendly painting systems.

          Improvements are both in equipment and the paint systems themselves. HVLP (High Volume Low Pressure) guns came out at least a decade ago and

        • by treeves (963993)
          he said put clear coat over it. so it's an expensive laser process, followed by clear PAINT.
          I suspect that the clear paint would destroy the color-producing effect of the metal surface anyways.
          • You would suspect wrong; I just smeared some vaseline on some butterfly wings from my butterfly collection and they kept their color (I didn't actually, but a cursory reading of Wikipedia will tell you that there is a translucent layer of chitin over the cells that exhibit the nano-color effect suggesting that clear paint would have no affect on so-colored cars). Thanks for not even trying.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by JeepFanatic (993244)
        I could see this for high end vehicles where people would be willing to pay the premium for a car who's "paint" will never fade.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Once you have the equipment, it just takes electricity. No need to buy paint, dyes, etc. on an ongoing basis. And according to the article, it's part of the metal, so it doesn't flake or rub off.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by djlemma (1053860)
          I have to wonder how difficult it would be to rub off the outer layer of the metal that's causing the wavelength modifications.. The article implies that the laser is modifying the metal at an atomic level, and I can't imagine it'd be too tough to scrape a few atoms off the surface of an aluminum body panel. What happens when a bird poops on the hood of your laser-colored car? Or worse, when some road tar gets splattered onto your front bumper. Normally, cleaning these up involves solvents and scrubbing,
          • Yeah, it would be vulnerable to scratching and wear, but if you put a clearcoat over it as some have mentioned, and made sure to wax it like you would any other car (or at the bare minimum scrub it down really well every 10 years or so and put a fresh layer of clearcoat on it) you probably wouldn't have to worry about the actual metal being damaged.
            I really don't see it being much of an advantage over regular paint in most cases, but it's a cool technology to have anyway and we may find something it's real
            • by jank1887 (815982)
              The problem is that where a paint coating of measurable thickness will take a certain amount of time to wear once direct exposure sets in, the super thin modified metal layer will only take an extremely short time to wear away. You'd have to be careful when waxing the car to apply very gently.
              • The problem is that where a paint coating of measurable thickness will take a certain amount of time to wear once direct exposure sets in, the super thin modified metal layer will only take an extremely short time to wear away. You'd have to be careful when waxing the car to apply very gently.

                Well, that's kind of the point of applying a fresh clearcoat periodically, it provides a transparent paint layer that will wear away at a certain rate and can be replenished. You wouldn't need to be gentle when waxing because you would be waxing the clearcoat not the bare metal (which could potentially fade if you simply smudged the surface). Really the tech isn't a compelling replacement for painting cars, although it might be useful for something else we haven't discovered yet, which was kind of the poin

        • by Ogive17 (691899)
          Dents or dings would cause a discoloration though. You'd have to get a whole new panel.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by onion2k (203094)
      Automotive paint isn't just used to make your car look pretty - it's also a protective coating to stop it going rusty.
      • by swillden (191260)

        Automotive paint isn't just used to make your car look pretty - it's also a protective coating to stop it going rusty.

        Hence the need for the clear coat the GP mentioned.

    • I wonder how rugged this etching is. Even though it is burned right into the surface of the metal it still is a very thin layer. How resistant to corrosion and wear could it be?
  • I, for one (Score:5, Funny)

    by Malevolent Tester (1201209) * on Friday February 01, 2008 @12:48PM (#22262674) Journal
    Welcome our new femtosecond laser wielding butterfly overlords.
    • Welcome our new femtosecond laser wielding butterfly overlords.
      Before we start getting tattooed mysteriously on sunny summer days I'd better check the Bible Translator's Notes and see if the original can be translated as "the color of the beast insect".
  • Neat! (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Rizzen (1059004)
    As an artist I find this highly interesting. I'm always looking for new mediums to work with, and I certainly hope this becomes easy enough to work with where I can experiment with it. I'm sure it would open up a whole host of new ideas for creative avenues.
    • by MLCT (1148749)
      Unfortunately femtosecond lasers aren't cheap - the one used in this work would I guestimate cost ~ $1M US.

      I have to be honest, reading the paper it is just, odd. It is not the results that are odd or anything like that, but it is just a bit flaky. They start off wittering on about Alchemy & turning base metal into gold (even referencing it) - then concede the aren't doing anything like that at all (this is an academic paper - wittering is not good). Details are light (ok, it is a letter) and in g
  • An optics professor and a postgrad have developed a way to use ultra-short pulses of laser light to etch nano features into the surface of metals so that they can absorb or reflect specific wavelengths of light. This is very similar to the way that butterflies get the color in their wings.

    There's no way in hell a butterfly has the discipline to set still while being laser-etched.

    • It is done to them while they are asleep. Just subject them to thirty-five degree temperatures and they calm down significantly. Plus, it's only done a femtosecond at a time, so if they blink they don't even notice.
  • From the article: "With his black metal finding, Dr. Guo suggested the possibility of black gold rings." and "The golden aluminum follows work a little more than year ago where Drs. Guo and Vorobyev reported that they could make gold and other metals look black -- indeed a black that is blacker than the usual black, sucking up almost all light that impinged upon it."
    I think that would make a really sweet ring and would definitely wear one! I'm not sure about as a wedding band though...
    • by SQLGuru (980662)
      Green Lantern still would have a cooler ring than you. Bilbo errr...Frodo, too.

      Of course, how can Jed Clampett turn his black gold into a ring for Ellie Mae?

      Layne

      (Joking aside, I think it would a cool looking ring, too.)
    • by imgod2u (812837)
      Depending on who you're marrying, it might be amazingly appropriate.
    • "...indeed a black that is blacker than the usual black, sucking up almost all light that impinged upon it."
      I think that would make a really sweet ring and would definitely wear one!
      I'd make a space ship, and fly it into the sun
  • Oblig. XKCD (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday February 01, 2008 @12:56PM (#22262830)
    What a coincidence http://www.xkcd.com/378/ [xkcd.com]
    • I was considering posting that, but couldn't think of anything witty enough. Apparently I wasn't the only one who couldn't.

      Let's try this: with this process, we could make precision butterflies that could eddy the air currents in such a way that amazing data densities could be achieved on the hard disks. The hard part is getting the butterflies to sit still without damaging them, but considering what we've done with silicon, I doubt it'd be that hard once there's interest.

      Hope that's good enough.

  • ...Ultra-short pulses of laser light to etch nano features into the surface of metals so that they can absorb or reflect specific wavelengths of light.

    This is very similar to the way that butterflies get the color in their wings.
    And there I was thinking it had something to do with cocoons.
  • You don't have to worry to much, as the butterflies only have access to short-wave lasers... P.S. The Gloom Wing Moth (reference: Page 157 of the AD&D 2nd edition Monster Manual) is something that should bring fear to your adventures!!!!
  • see "Femto" and think of the guy from the Berserk manga? Just curious.
  • Friend Computer wishes to know.
  • by techpawn (969834) on Friday February 01, 2008 @01:08PM (#22263074) Journal
    No one EVER suspects the butterfly...
  • I wonder if this will work outside the range of visible light: up into ultraviolet or down to infrared wavelengths.

    It might be a novel way to unobtrusively mark equipment or vehicles with permanent serial numbers or some kind of identification method for recognition by, say, machine vision, but which would not be visible to the unaided eye.

    For robots to begin work in our everyday world, I feel that at first they are going to need some special markers around the house and office to help them recognize important objects more easily - this could be a very efficient and elegant way to accomplish just that.
    • by tgatliff (311583)
      I could see all kinds of uses.... I would think one of the best would be a high resolution printer for metals. I wonder if HP is listening??? Right now, screen printing is the method of choice, but with this approach I would assume the resolution could be more substantially higher than screen printing in addition to longer lasting. Yes, it would require them to determine all of the color ranges, but that does not seem like such a difficult thing to do.

      Also, thin metal aluminum paper for printing on coul
    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      It might be a novel way to unobtrusively mark equipment or vehicles with permanent serial numbers or some kind of identification method for recognition by, say, machine vision, but which would not be visible to the unaided eye.
      Depends on how deep the change goes.
      Otherwise, a quick sanding, or a couple whacks with a hammer will ruin your serial #.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by DerekLyons (302214)
      It should work in a variety of wavelengths. For 'house and office' use however, it boils down to two question: 1) how many common materials will take the markings (looking around my house and office, I see little metal and most of that is painted*), and 2) will the marking remain visible under a layer of dust (within a few hours of cleaning, you'll start to accumulate more - even if won't be visible to the naked eye for a day or two)?

      *And how well a given metal accepts these markings will depend heavily o
  • by GauteL (29207) on Friday February 01, 2008 @01:11PM (#22263124)
    .. but when I see things like "professor and a postgrad have developed", I assume that the postgrad did all the work and the professor took most of the credit.
    • I assume that the postgrad did all the work and the professor took most of the credit.
      That's a given. Tenured professors exist only to lend their fame to important work done by postgrads and graduate students. Oh, and raise the money to do it. I'm only half kidding.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by fishybell (516991)
        I asked by dad, a tenured professor / associate dean at the local university, and he said it depends on the professor. Most professors, and all the good ones, are in it for the knowledge and the spreading thereof. Any papers he publishes have the grad students listed first (by order of work done on the project) and his name last. The scientific journals know that the professor's name is last (and of course, followed by the telling doctoral title) as most professors want to give the credit to those who need
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by mea37 (1201159)
      Careful saying things like that around the professor, or he will indeed colour you cynical. Using a laser.
    • *Yawn* Wake me up when the post-grad develops transparent aluminum. Beam me up, Scotty!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Speare (84249)

      This argument is like the quarterback vs the coach.

      While the postgrad may have done 99.9999999% of the annoying and tedious labor-intensive development of the concept, it is often the case that such partnerships start with a short conversation in a hallway, where either one of them could rightly claim to have spawned the insightful flash that led to the exercise in the first place, and neither one of them could rightly deny the claim of the other. Add that to the fact that the lab is provided by the prof

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by servognome (738846)

      .. but when I see things like "professor and a postgrad have developed", I assume that the postgrad did all the work and the professor took most of the credit.
      The postgrad probably did all the labor, but the professor probably came up with the idea, provided guidance, and secured the funding. Being a grad student is just like being an apprentice in any other walk of life.
    • by jonatha (204526)
      Okay. (Sets laser to "cynical" femtoseconds.) Zap!
  • Can transparent aluminum be far behind?
  • G.Lippman got the nobel prize in the naughties for having developed such a process for color photography using interferometric techniques reminding of holography. People at the time said that the color pictures looked like butterfly wings. Link : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lippmann_plate [wikipedia.org]
  • by wiredog (43288) on Friday February 01, 2008 @02:05PM (#22264002) Journal
    "whatcouldpossiblygowrong" tag! Come on! They're giving lasers to butterflies!
  • If it is reasonably tough, this might be good for coloring jewelry used in body piercing.
  • poll (Score:5, Funny)

    by Thornburg (264444) on Friday February 01, 2008 @02:29PM (#22264408)
    Quick Poll:

    Did the poster and/or editor intentionally make the ambiguous statement about butterflies, knowing that it would lead to a discussion 80% about laser-wielding butterflies, with real article-related content left to battle with the usual jokes/OT garbage/etc for the remaining 20% of comments?

    Possible Answers:

    () Yes, and it's awesome.

    () Yes, and it sucks.

    () No, but it's awesome.

    () No, and it sucks.

    () CowboyNeal forced them to.
  • hmm (Score:2, Informative)

    by sonoronos (610381)
    Call me a skeptic, but I find it hard to believe that surface etching can cause the photon absorption characteristics of the material to change, a property which has more to do with the atomic structure of the material than its gross features. This leads me to believe that the color properties of the material are probably due to anisotropic reflection - meaning that the difference between "light" and "dark" between frequencies is the difference between "reflective" and "matte". Therefore, the intensity of
  • by Midnight Thunder (17205) on Friday February 01, 2008 @03:08PM (#22265046) Homepage Journal
    Hmm, I wonder whether I could get him to apply the process to my MacBook Pro? If he manages to get the technique to colour metal in industrial quantity that could be amazing.
  • by WinCheers (668942)
    If he can figure out the right permutation to absorb radar or have radar waves cancel themselves out, then the military may be interested.
  • Prior Art (Score:3, Funny)

    by PPH (736903) on Friday February 01, 2008 @03:50PM (#22265588)
    Paint.
  • The golden aluminum follows work a little more than year ago where Drs. Guo and Vorobyev reported that they could make gold and other metals look black -- indeed a black that is blacker than the usual black, sucking up almost all light that impinged upon it.

    We were able to reach Mr. Tufnel, an expert in the field, about this amazing technology:

    That's pretty cool man. It's so black, it's like, how much more black can it be? The Answer is none. None more black.

    Deathklok was unavailable for comment, citing t

  • I'm wondering about if one could make a very thin metal sheet (almost gold leaf thinness), use the laser technology to etch whatever color is desired, break the sheet up into a powder, then use the powder + a clear solution to hold it in. This should make a workable metallic paint in whatever colors are wanted.

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