How exactly does a rust-cleaning laser work?

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The laser in very strong, so strong that it can heat up rust and dirt to temperatures so high it instantly vaporizes, cleaning the surface, and leaving shiny metal underneath, which doesn’t absorb the light, it just reflects it, so it doesn’t get damaged by the laser

Lasers are, essentially, just columns of energy.

And if you can think back to college physics, substances change phase as their temperature changes.

All the rust cleaning laser does is raise the temperature and pressure on the rust to a point where it just evaporates, completely bypassing the liquid phase.

This is called sublimation. The easiest way to think of sublimation is dry ice, which turns directly into CO2 without a liquid phase.

And the laser beam is maintained at a temperature where iron is unaffected but oxidised iron is. I must say that is quite genius.