Excimers are often diatomic and are composed of two atoms or molecules that would not bond if both were in the ground state.Excimers are only formed when one of the dimer components is in the excited state. When the excimer returns to the ground state, its components dissociate and often repel each other. The wavelength of an excimer emission is longer (smaller energy) than that of the excited monomer emission. An excimer can thus be measured by fluorescent emissions.
Because excimer formation is dependent on a bimolecular interaction, it is promoted by high monomer density. Low-density conditions produce excited monomers that decay to the ground state before they interact with an unexcited monomer to form an excimer.
Excimer lasers are also widely used in numerous fields of scientific research, both as primary sources and, particularly the XeCl laser, as pump sources for tunable dye lasers, mainly to excite laser dyes emitting in the blue-green region of the spectrum.
The ultraviolet 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 organic material (including certain polymers and plastics), or delicate surgeries such as eye surgery LASIK.
As light sources, excimer lasers are generally large in size, which is a disadvantage in their medical applications, although their sizes are rapidly decreasing with ongoing development.
Research is being conducted to compare differences in safety and effectiveness outcomes between conventional excimer laser refractive surgery and wavefront-guided or wavefront-optimized refractive surgery.