Q-Switched Nd:YAG Lasers
Technology, Applications, and Types of Systems
These lasers are used around the world for their unparalleled ability to target pigment in the skin. Leading dermatology, plastic surgery, and laser specialty clinics value Q-switched lasers for their efficacy for a variety of skin issues, primarily unwanted tattoos. This article will explain the technology behind the lasers, their various applications, and the different types of systems on the market.
Exploring the technology of a Q-Switched (QSW) Nd:YAG laser, there’s three elements to discuss:
- The laser
- The Nd:YAG rod
- The Q-switched pulse
The word ‘laser’ is actually an acronym for ‘Light Amplified Stimulated Emission Radiation.’ Lasers produce photons that travel at a specific wavelength in a columnated (not diffuse) beam.
Lasers vary in how powerful (and potentially dangerous) they are, which is why there are different classifications of lasers (ranging from I – IV). Lasers that have no potential danger under normal use are Class I lasers, and the most powerful class of lasers are Class IV. All Q-Switched Nd:YAG lasers are Class IV lasers, which means eye protection and proper protocols must be used for safety.
An Nd:YAG laser is a solid-state laser that uses an Nd:YAG (Neodymium-doped Yttrium Aluminum Garnet) crystal rod to produce its light energy. Photons produced by Nd:YAG lasers travel at a wavelength of 1064 nm. Nd:YAG lasers are used for a variety of applications, including laser engraving, hair removal, and more.
Q-Switched lasers produces extremely brief pulses of energy. Both nanosecond lasers (billionths of a second pulses) and picosecond lasers (trillionth of a second pulses) are types of Q-switched lasers.
These lasers are able to condense a very large amount of energy in a very fast pulse, creating a high “peak” of energy.
A Q-switched Nd:YAG laser produces light that travels at the 1064 nm wavelength in brief, intense pulses. Most Q-switched lasers also have a KTP filter that frequency-doubles the light into the 532 nm wavelength.
There are two elements that make Q-Switched Nd:YAG lasers essential for treating skin conditions:
- The 1064 nm and 532 nm wavelengths can be useful for targeting certain pigments
- The pulse is powerful enough to destroy its target, but brief enough to not harm the skin
- unwanted tattoos
- pigmented lesions (brown spots, age spots, etc.)
- vascular lesions (spider veins)
- toenail fungus
- non-ablative skin rejuvenation
In all of these cases, the QSW Nd:YAG laser is important for the treatment because the laser is able to penetrate into the skin (or nail) without harming it and have the energy absorbed by the target (whether it be tattoo pigment, hemoglobin, melanin, or fungus).
The two different wavelengths are used for different applications, as they are absorbed differently by pigments and chromophores.
Types of Q-Switched Nd:YAG Lasers
While most QSW Nd:YAG lasers have more similarities than differences, there are certain subcategories that you may need to navigate as you explore systems to buy for your practice.
Active vs Passive
Actively Q-switched lasers and passively-Q-switched lasers both produce the dual 1064 nm / 532 nm wavelengths and ultra-short pulses.
The difference between the two is that the actively Q-switched lasers have a more complex pulse production that allows for greater pulse energy and peak power. Passively Q-switched lasers are generally less powerful but more affordable. You can tell the difference between the two because the
Picosecond vs Nanosecond
The trend of picosecond lasers is a popular one now in the aesthetic laser marketplace.
The claim is that they can remove tattoos in fewer treatments because the pulse is briefer than nanosecond Q-switched lasers. However, there are two factors that affect peak power: both pulse duration and pulse energy.
While most picosecond lasers have a small advantage with their slightly shorter pulse, they also have a disadvantage with reduced pulse energy. The result? The peak power for nanosecond and picosecond systems are comparable, yet picosecond systems are wrought with reliability issues.
Astanza offers a variety of Q-switched lasers for sale. Click here to see them all.
Check out these other resources from Astanza:
- Laser Equipment Buying Guide
- Why Laser Wavelengths Matter for Removing Tattoos
- 10 Critical Questions to Ask Before Buying a Laser
- The Market for Laser Tattoo Removal
- The Astanza Trinity Laser