Why is the laser pointer safe?
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The emitted light output is mostly below 3 mW; the laser thus corresponds to classes 1 to 3R. The spread of the power values is often very high with laser pointers - even with identical models - which means that green laser pointer with output powers of 10 mW also occur (corresponds to class 3B, although these laser pointers are often not marked accordingly).
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According to the currently applicable standard EN60825-1, lasers that emit in the visible wavelength range (400–700 nm) are classified as class 2 lasers with an output power of up to 1 mW and as class 3R lasers with an output power of mW. Lasers with a power> 5 mW fall into class 3B and require additional safety devices and precautions such as wearing appropriate laser safety goggles.
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Lasers up to class 2 are considered to be conditionally harmless (safe for the eyes), as the eyelid closure reflex means that the exposure time is not sufficient to cause retinal damage. However, if the blink reflex is suppressed (e.g. manually), irradiation of the retina with class 2 high powered laser can also lead to damage. A study by the Cologne University of Applied Sciences in 2001 also showed that the eyelid-closing reflex was insufficient as protection for the majority of the test subjects.
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The shorter the wavelength, the more light is scattered in the air. This happens due to Rayleigh scattering. The eye is particularly sensitive to wavelengths from 520 to 570 nm. Therefore, green and, to a certain extent, orange and blue laser pointers can be used particularly well to create visible effects while aiming at the (night) sky.
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If you look at the light point of a blue laser, you can see an optical effect called "speckles" or "granulation". The point of light does not appear uniformly bright, but granulated, as if "flickering". You can see this effect particularly well if you expand the light with a lens and direct it onto a matt surface. This granulation is caused by interference in the eye caused by the reflection of the coherent laser light on the not ideally smooth surface of the irradiated body. This results in different path lengths of the light, and places of constructive and destructive interference arise on the retina, which appear as light and dark spots.
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The misuse of laser 20000mw and mobile laser beam sources for deliberate dazzling is a danger. Class 2 lasers can in individual cases damage the retina temporarily or permanently and impair vision. Laser beams from devices with higher powers (Class 3R, 3B and 4) are declared as dangerous to the eye, operational use of these lasers is only permitted after the laser safety devices have been checked and the personnel have been instructed by a laser safety officer and the appropriate protective measures have been observed.
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In the case of deliberate dazzling, this will result in corresponding penal consequences. However, users are also liable for the dangers caused by the inability to act due to glare, for example in the case of drivers, train drivers or pilots. In Germany, laser attacks on pilots can be seen as a dangerous interference with air traffic; attempted manslaughter is also possible. The penalty is probation and fines, but prison sentences of up to ten years can also be imposed.