The Enduring Legacy of Helium-Neon Lasers and Power Supplies

The Enduring Legacy of Helium-Neon Lasers and Power Supplies

Helium-Neon (HeNe) lasers are one of the earliest types of gas lasers, first demonstrated in 1960 by Ali Javan, William Bennett Jr., and Donald Herriott at Bell Labs. HeNe lasers operate at a wavelength of 632.8 nanometers (nm) in the visible red region of the electromagnetic spectrum. The gas mixture typically consists of helium (He) and neon (Ne), which provides the laser with its name. In this guide, we will explore the origins and history of HeNe lasers, their use cases, and the industries that still utilize these lasers today.

Origins and History of HeNe Lasers

The invention of the HeNe laser was a significant breakthrough in the field of laser technology. The HeNe laser was the first continuous-wave laser to operate at room temperature, making it a practical and affordable laser source for laboratory research and industrial applications. The development of the HeNe laser was the result of several years of research by a team of scientists at Bell Labs. Ali Javan, a professor of physics at MIT, proposed the concept of a HeNe laser in the late 1950s. Javan, William Bennett Jr., and Donald Herriott succeeded in creating the first HeNe laser in 1960. They demonstrated that HeNe lasers could produce a continuous beam of laser light, making them ideal for precision measurement and communication applications.

In the early days of HeNe laser development, the technology was primarily used in scientific research applications, such as spectroscopy and holography. However, as the technology matured and became more affordable, HeNe lasers found their way into a wide range of industrial applications. One of the earliest industrial applications of HeNe lasers was in barcode scanners. The HeNe laser was the first type of laser to be used in barcode scanners because of its low power requirements, stable output power, and long lifetime.

Recent Use Cases of HeNe Lasers

Despite being one of the oldest types of gas lasers, HeNe lasers are still utilized in many applications today. One of the most significant recent applications of HeNe lasers has been in the field of interferometry. HeNe lasers are used in interferometers to measure distances with extreme precision. For example, HeNe lasers are used in the construction and alignment of large optical telescopes to measure and correct any deformations in the mirror surfaces. HeNe lasers are also used in metrology applications, such as the calibration of measuring instruments used in manufacturing.

Another important recent application of HeNe lasers is in laser light shows. HeNe lasers produce a bright, red laser beam that is easily visible in low light conditions, making them ideal for use in laser light shows. HeNe lasers are also used in scientific research applications, such as in the construction of large-scale particle accelerators.

Industries and Applications for HeNe

The HeNe laser has found its way into a wide range of industries and applications. HeNe lasers are still used in barcode scanners, but they are also used in medical applications. For example, HeNe lasers are used in dermatology to treat port-wine stains and other vascular lesions. HeNe lasers are also used in ophthalmology for retinal photocoagulation, a procedure used to treat diabetic retinopathy and other eye conditions.

HeNe lasers are also used in manufacturing and quality control applications. For example, HeNe lasers are used to measure the thickness of materials such as glass and plastics. They are also used in the production of high-precision components, such as microchips and printed circuit boards.

Why is HeNe Still Utilized?

Despite their limited power output, Helium-Neon lasers continue to be utilized in various industries and applications due to their unique characteristics. One of the main reasons for their continued use is their ability to produce a very narrow, stable, and monochromatic beam of light. This makes them ideal for applications that require precise measurements, such as in interferometry and holography.

Additionally, HeNe lasers are also known for their long coherence length, meaning that the beam remains in phase over long distances. This makes them useful in applications such as metrology, where they can be used to measure distances and straightness over long distances with high precision.

Another reason for their continued use is their relative affordability and ease of use compared to other laser technologies. HeNe lasers are relatively simple to operate and require minimal maintenance, making them an attractive option for smaller companies or research labs with limited budgets and expertise in laser technology.

Helium-Neon (HeNe) Laser Power Supplies

One of the essential components of a HeNe laser is its power supply, which provides the voltage and current necessary to excite the gas mixture in the laser tube. These power supplies are usually built into the laser itself, but they can also be external. Over time, the power supply components can wear out or fail, and replacement parts are needed.

Fortunately, there are still dedicated companies that manufacture HeNe power supplies and other parts. The Laser Experts at Power Technology, Inc (PTI) are one such company that has been making HeNe power supplies since 1969. We offer a wide range of HeNe power supplies that are compatible with almost all HeNe laser tubes from popular manufacturers like Excelitas, Lumentum, Zygo, LASOS, and more. While other manufacturers haven’t changed or updated their HeNe power supply line in decades, PTI is still actively innovating and investing in these products. We have continued to develop and improve our HeNe power supplies, resulting in more efficient, reliable, and high-quality products. In fact, our next-generation line of HeNe power supplies are microprocessor controlled, giving the operator even more confidence in maintaining laser tubes at the proper power levels.

PTI’s commitment to innovation and quality ensures that HeNe lasers and their associated components will continue to be available for those who require them. If you’re looking to get a replacement HeNe laser tube power supply, visit:

Speak with a Helium-Neon power supply expert today! Our commitment to HeNe is unmatched, and evidenced by our continuous investment into innovation with our newly-announced line of Microprocessor-controlled Helium-Neon Laser Power Supplies. Find those here: