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By Jon Singer on May 16, 2011
An Examination of the Amateur Scientist Circuitboard Nitrogen Laser
Many Do-It-Yourselfers have built nitrogen lasers, often from a design published in the Amateur Scientist column of Scientific American magazine. This page discusses the text of that column in some detail, and shows several ways in which the explanation of the design and how it operates is faulty.
In the Amateur Scientist column, on page 122 of the June, 1974 issue of Scientific American, there was a design for a tabletop nitrogen laser. It was written by someone named Jim Small, who was a student at MIT at the time. The article was later republished in the Scientific American book Light and Its Uses, and is also on the CD of Amateur Scientist columns, which you can get from The Society for Amateur Scientists. I have also found this CD available from The Surplus Shed, and from American Science and Surplus.
The design isn’t bad at all: it’s easy to build, easy to operate, and puts out enough energy to drive a