Meeting Information

The Magic of Lasers in Entertainment - Behind the Technology

June 21, 2023

Date: Wednesday, June 21, 2023
Speaker: John Suehle Ph.D., CTO of Image Engineering Inc.
Title: The Magic of Lasers in Entertainment - Behind the Technology
Time: 1:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
Location: Virtual via Zoom

Abstract: Many of the applications for which laser light sources are used in visually captivating displays in concert touring, professional sports, and architectural lighting. The possibilities of using lasers in new entertainment applications such as drone aircraft displays will be discussed.

It was not long after Theodore Maiman published the first demonstration of the ruby laser in the August 6, 1960 issue of Nature1 that it was realized that such a unique light source could be used in many applications, including entertainment. In fact, four years later a laser was initially used and then simulated in a scene from the James Bond movie Goldfinger. Later in the 1970s high-speed galvanometers were developed to quickly scan laser beams to produce 2-D images. The laser light show was born in 1973 when filmmaker Ivan Dryer formed Laser Images, Inc. and performed “Laserium” at Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. The show was expanded to 46 cities.

Today, advanced material science allows the fabrication of laser diodes emitting in the red, blue and green wavelengths with optical powers exceeding four watts from a single emitter. Lasers are now exhibiting 40 percent efficiency — up from .05 percent for their ion laser ancestors. Such an increase in efficiency and decrease in size have made the laser ubiquitous in entertainment. It is now possible to use a large number of laser sources to produce compelling volumetric kinetic displays of laser light. Hundreds of watts of optical power are routinely used by Image Engineering in live tours such as Paul McCartney and the Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Biography: John Suehle is currently the CTO of Image Engineering Inc. where he leads a team that designs and manufactures laser systems for entertainment applications. He developed one of the first 20-Watt laser projectors in the U.S. using beam combined laser diode technology. He also developed the only FDA-approved audience scanning laser projector using spinning polygon mirrors. The company’s products are used by many clients including Lady Gaga and the NFL.

John Suehle is one of the founders and owners of Image Engineering Inc. He holds a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Maryland, College Park, MD. He joined the NIST (Formerly NBS) Semiconductor Electronics Division in 1982 where he served as leader of the CMOS and Novel Devices Group until his retirement in January 2016. His research activities include failure and wear-out mechanisms of semiconductor devices, radiation effects on microelectronic devices, micro-electro-mechanical-systems (MEMS), and nanoelectronic devices. He also served as the Laser Safety Officer at NIST where he was responsible for establishing safety and inspection protocols for all laser systems in the Physical Measurement Laboratories.

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