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Invented in the 1970's by Nikolai Basov, V. A. Danilychev and Yu. M. Popov, at the P. N. Lebedev Physical Institute in Moscow, an excimer laser is a form of ultraviolet chemical laser which is commonly used in eye surgery and semiconductor manufacturing. The term excimer is short for 'excited dimer'. An excimer laser typically uses a combination of an inert gas (Argon, krypton, or xenon) and a reactive gas (fluorine or chlorine). Under the appropriate conditions of electrical stimulation, a pseudo-molecule called a dimer is created, which can only exist in an energized state and can give rise to laser light in the ultraviolet range.

The UV light from an excimer laser is well absorbed by biological matter and organic compounds. Rather than burning or cutting material, the excimer laser adds enough energy to disrupt the molecular bonds of the surface tissue, which effectively disintegrates into the air in a tightly controlled manner through ablation rather than burning. Thus excimer lasers have the useful property that they can remove exceptionally fine layers of surface material with almost no heating or change to the remainder of the material which is left intact. These properties make excimer lasers well suited to precision micromachining of organic material, or delicate surgeries such as eye surgery (LASIK).

In the early 1980's, Dr. Samuel Blum was working with Dr. Rangaswamy Srinivasan and Dr. James Wynne at IBM's T. J. Watson Research Center when they observed the effect of the ultraviolet excimer laser on biological materials. Intrigued, they investigated further, finding that the laser made clean, precise cuts that would be ideal for delicate surgeries. This resulted in a fundamental patent and Drs. Blum, Srinivasan, and Wynne were elected to the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2002. Subsequent work introduced the excimer laser for use in angioplasty. Although IBM found a use for the excimer laser in their chip manufacturing operations, Kansas State University pioneered the study of the excimer laser which made LASIK surgery possible.

Since there is a need for significant precision and accuracy in laser vision correction, the excimer laser has been recognized as an ideal application for the treatment of vision conditions like farsightedness, nearsightedness, and astigmatism. That theory, and the resulting experimentation, has led to today's computer controlled equipment and the associated computer guided vision correction procedures.

At H. Rubin Laser Eye Centers, we have used the VISX Star 4 laser for almost all of our cases since 2003. For many reasons, we believe this laser allows the most accurate treatment and provides the most accurate results of any laser system available today.

To learn more about the excimer laser and the history of laser vision correction, visit the manufacturer's website.