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By Jon Singer on March 7, 2011
TJIIRRS: Number 10c of an Ongoing Series;
Naturally Occurring Compounds Suitable for Use as Laser Dyes
Although most organic materials fluoresce at least a little, there are very few naturally-occurring compounds with quantum efficiency above 0.5 or so. This page discusses some of them, and a few with lower efficiency that have nonetheless been lased.
(04 September, 2006)
Aesculin (the modern spelling is Esculin) has been known for many years. It is a hydroxycoumarin compound, related to the umbelliferones. Aesculin can be extracted from the bark and probably the seed husks of Horse-Chestnuts (of which the most commonly grown kind seems to be Aesculus hippocastanum), and presumably also from closely-related species like the various kinds of Buckeye.
Aesculin is brightly fluorescent, particularly in basic solutions. It has been lased and reported in the literature, though only once that I’m aware of. It is a hemolytic toxin, so you shouldn’t eat any horse-chestnuts that you haven’t first crushed and soaked in several changes of boiling water.
I obtained a small quantity of Aesculin Sesquihydrate, and was able to lase it in 95% Ethanol with a small amount of ammonia. Here is a photo:
(The dye cuvette is on