You might have used laser pointers during class or office presentations or as an aiming device for your hunting rifle. If you are an outdoors type of person, laser pointers can be of more help than just aiming when hunting. They can help you start fires. But your ordinary laser pointer cannot cause ignition. It needs to be a powerful pointer with an intense beam that can heat combustible materials until they ignite. Here's an in-depth look at laser fire starter and the factors to consider when choosing one. Read on to learn more!
What Is a Laser Fire Starter?
As the name suggests, a laser fire starter is a device that shoots powerful laser beams to ignite combustible materials. Most resemble regular flashlights but with a significant difference.
Light from flashlights combines multiple colors and spreads out in all directions. So your eye will receive a tiny section of the full light spectrum when you look at the light from a flashlight.
A blue laser pointer capable of burning paper
But a laser fire starter, or a laser pointer, shoots a single-color light in a single direction. Therefore, your eye will get a concentrated single-color beam in one go if you look at the laser beam. This concentrated light can damage the eye.
Can a Laser Pointer Start a Fire?
It depends. Not all laser pointers can start fires. What matters most is the output power. These fire starters come in a variety of power outputs. Some meet the threshold required to start a fire, while others do not. So don't expect to ignite tiny firewood pieces using a pocket laser. You'll need more power.
Factors To Consider When Buying a Laser Fire Starter
Consider the following factors to buy a laser pointer that meets the required threshold to ignite materials.
Strength (Watt and Milliwatt)
The most crucial factor to consider is the beam strength. Measured in watts or milliwatts, the higher the value, the stronger the laser. For instance, you need at least a 200mW laser pen to cut electrical tape, pop a balloon, or ignite a matchstick.
A laser pointer pen
For fire starting, you need at least 500mW to 1000mW (1W), but this value is still on the lower side. So it will take some time before the wood catches fire. But you can use flammable materials like matches, gasoline, or paper to assist in starting the fire.
However, high-power lasers with an output power of about 3000mW (3W) can ignite wood in a few seconds without the help of any flammable materials. So they are the best for this application.
The material you want to ignite also plays a crucial role in determining the best laser fire starter to use. For instance, you do not need a high-power laser to light matches or gasoline.
The target's color is crucial, as well. Let's put aside the fire starting and focus on the balloon popping a little. Say you have two balloons, one white and the other black. White reflects the beam of light more than black. So you will need a more powerful laser pointer to pop the white one than the one you'll need for the black one.
The alternative is to paint a black spot on the white balloon and aim the beam at that point. It should absorb more heat faster and burn the surface to pop. So you won't need a high-power laser for the job.
Most handheld laser pointers have a fixed focus beam, meaning you can't alter the beam diameter. Beam control is unnecessary for burning experiments, especially if it is a high-output-power laser pointer.
However, a unit with a focus-adjustable lens gives better beam control because it allows you to increase the beam's intensity and have a higher impact on the target. This feature is critical for pointers with their output power on the edge of the burning threshold.
Does Color Play a Role in Fire Starting?
Color does matter, but not as much as the laser shot's power. So consider this factor a secondary priority. Blue and green lasers have higher wavelengths than red, making them slightly more potent.
Laser pointers with the three primary colors
However, they require more energy to run, meaning the battery will drain faster. Green is usually the preferred color because it is brighter than blue and red, making it more visible.
A green laser pointer
How To Start a Fire With a Laser Pointer
Before starting the fire, decide which material you want to ignite to determine the laser strength you'll need for the task. A class 3B laser is enough to ignite light combustible materials like paper, matches, wood chips, or even gas. But you'll need a class 4 laser with a power output exceeding 500mW to ignite more astute materials. Once you sort this issue, follow these steps to start the fire.
Note: We'll use wood chips for this experiment, so these steps apply to similar combustible materials.
Go To a Safe Space To Do The Experiment
You don't want to burn things accidentally, so go to your fire pit or use your coal grill. If you don't have either of them, build a fire pit in your backyard by digging a hole, lining the base with pebbles, and lining the walls with stones. The idea is to have a space where you can isolate the fire to prevent accidents if anything goes wrong.
A fire pit
Gather The Burning Materials
Gather the leftover wood pieces from your firewood storage area or splitting area. You can use matches or gasoline to hasten the process or if you have larger chunks of wood. But these might be unnecessary if you have a powerful laser pointer.
Wood chips for use as fuel
Wear Safety Gear
Any laser shot can damage the eye. So always wear safety goggles to prevent eye damage. And don't use standard protective UV sunglasses. Use laser safety eyewear that blocks the specific laser light wavelength like the way certified laser safety gear does. But even with this eyewear, avoid flashing the laser into your eyes or anyone around.
Safety glasses that give safety against laser radiation
Set Your Laser
A laser pointer can only start a fire if it emits a concentrated beam with a tiny diameter. So adjust the lens divergence setting to the lowest value. But most pointers have a fixed focus that produces a thin beam. The divergence setting is not available in these units. We recommend using a laser pointer with adjustable focus settings to give you more flexibility.
A green laser pointer switched off.
Aim The Laser
Finish by pointing the thin laser beam at the combustible material. Aim it at a clear and clean area of the wood chips for quick ignition. Flames should appear after about 10 seconds of exposure.
There you have it! Laser pointers can be convenient, rechargeable fire starters for every adventure. And powerful units are ideal firestarters for survival kits. That's it for today. We hope you get a powerful unit with a divergence setting for beam diameter adjustment. If you have any questions, contact us, and we will respond ASAP.