The Photon Factory where the poetry was inscribed is a laser lab at the University of Auckland that uses lasers for micro machining as well as looking at fast changes in molecules.
What is a femtosecond?
Light travels really fast at around 300,000,000 metres per second or around a billion km/hr. In one second in vacuum it can travel a distance of around 7.75 times around the earth. A nanosecond is 0.000000009 seconds or a billionth of a second. A nanosecond pulse of light is then 30 cm long. A femtosecond pulse of light is a millionth of a billionth of a second at 0.000000000000001 seconds. A pulse this short is only 0.3 microns long (your hair is around 100 microns in diameter) this is about the width of a virus. What can be do with these short pulses?
The femtosecond pulse is so short it has no time to heat the material and blasts the material off as a plasma. This means it can machine anything with no damage to the material. It has been used to machine explosives, glass, ceramics, hard tissues in the body and basically any solid you can think of. This is one of the reasons we can machine anything in the photon factory and one of the reason we started the poetry off the page project to prove that we can machine anything anyone is interested in.
Take snapshots of molecules
We are also able to take snap shots of molecules as they absorb and break down on the femtosecond timescale. We can use this to help tune solar harvesting molecules in the chemistry department and see how pigments fade in textiles and priceless artwork. Take a look at the video me made about the process.