Difference Between MASER and LASER

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You might be familiar with the term LASER. We come across this term at many places such as laser printers, laser surgery etc. There is one more similar term called MASER. Do you know the difference between these two?

What is MASER?

Maser full form Microwave Amplification by Stimulated Radiation was introduced by the two physicists Charles Townes and Arthus Schawlow. Microwaves are electromagnetic waves with wavelengths of 1 mm to 1 m. Maser refers to a microwave beam which is amplified by using coherent stimulated radiation emission. The outer electrons which are in a high energy state of a molecule are bombarded by a photon; it causes the electron to move down in energy level.


In this process, it releases another photon. Both these photons are similar in phase, direction as well as in frequency. Due to this photon addition, the beam is amplified, these masers are found naturally in space. However, they are also created in laboratories. According to the original definition, they tend to emit only microwaves.

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What is LASER?

The concept of Maser was extended by shifting the principle of stimulated emission from the microwave wavelengths to shorter wavelengths, which includes the optical range or visible spectrum of around 390-750 nm. Laser full form Light Amplification by Stimulated Radiation specifically denotes the Ultraviolet and Infrared sections of the spectrum. After the discovery of the maser,  a laser was discovered. It is also known as an optical maser.


Difference Between LASER and MASER

Maser generally refers to a device which is used for creation and amplification of an intense and coherent beam of high frequency radio waves. Laser is the same as the maser, but it specifically applies to infrared or optical wavelengths only. Laser has evolved from maser.

The primary difference between Maser and Laser is that Laser emits in the microwave part of the electromagnetic spectrum, whereas laser deals with the infrared or optical wavelengths. It is important to mention that Maser or Laser’s radiation is more intense than other types of radiations.

Comparison between Laser and Maser:

DefinitionAn intense beam of lightAn intense beam of microwave
Full FormLight Amplification by Stimulated Emission of RadiationMicrowave Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation
UsesUsed in welding, cutting and drillingUsed in communications, sensing, spectroscopy, interferometry, holography, etcUsed in satellite communicationUsed in air to air communicationUsed in radar technologyUsed as an amplifier and oscillator in microwave
OriginThe first laser was made by a young physicist named Theodore Maiman at Hughes Research Laboratories in Malibu in 1960The maser was invented by Charles Townes and his students at Columbia University in 1954
Piercing PowerNot like maserIt can pierce through cloud cover, living tissue, and other solid materials undisturbed
Common TypesGas laser (ex. argon laser)Carbon dioxide laserDiode laserDye laserRuby maserTraveling Wave Maser
Production conditionsComparatively easyComparatively difficult

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Image Credit: Laser background vector created by pikisuperstar – www.freepik.com

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