Science fiction meets fact — Superman’s eye lasers are developed in St Andrews

Science fiction meets fact — Superman’s eye lasers are developed in St Andrews
02 May
Christopher Reeve as Superman

Superman’s ability to shoot laser beams from his eyes has come a step closer to reality, with discoveries made by a research team at the University of St Andrews.

It could be possible to attach an ultra-thin membrane laser to the eye using organic semiconductors.

Unlike the Man of Steel’s ocular weaponry, the new technique could be harnessed for security, biophotonics and photomedicine.

Writing in Nature Communications researchers say the threshold of their membrane lasers is compatible with the requirements for safe operation in the human eye.

The team of Professors Malte Gather, Ifor Samuel and Graham Turnbull were also able to demonstrate ocular lasing using a cow eye.

Professor Gather of the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University said: “In ancient Greece, Plato believed that visual perception is mediated by ‘eye beams’ – beams actively sent out by the eyes to probe the environment.

“Plato’s emission theory has of course long been refuted, but superheroes with lasers in their eyes live on in popular culture and comic books.

“Our work represents a new milestone in laser development and, in particular, points the way to how lasers can be used in inherently soft and ductile environments, be it in wearable sensors or as an authentication feature on bank notes.”

Professor Samuel said: “By floating a thin plastic film off a substrate we have made some of the world’s smallest and lightest lasers and put them on contact lenses and bank notes.”

They say the devices could be used as flexible and wearable security tags.

“By varying the materials and adjusting the grating structures of the laser, the emission can be designed to show a specific series of sharp lines on a flat background – the ones and zeros of a digital barcode,” explained Markus Karl, who worked on the new lasers as part of his PhD.



« »