Working weekends

Sept. 1, 2012
In July 1962, Robert Hall and some colleagues at the GE R&D Center in Niskayuna, NY, succeeded in doing what researchers in other labs in the US, France, Russia and elsewhere were seeking: to create coherent light emission from gallium arsenide junctions—giving rise to the first laser diode.
Conard Holton2

In July 1962, Robert Hall and some colleagues at the GE R&D Center in Niskayuna, NY, succeeded in doing what researchers in other labs in the US, France, Russia and elsewhere were seeking: to create coherent light emission from gallium arsenide junctions—giving rise to the first laser diode. In September that year, Hall published the results in Physical Review Letters and the rest, as they say, is history.

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of his seminal paper, we have turned to one of the leaders in more recent laser diode advances—David Welch, co-founder of Infinera—to present a webcast on the future of laser diodes. You can watch it live on September 12, or in the archive; there is also a video of David describing the history of laser diodes on our web site.

In this issue, we celebrate the laser diode with an article by researchers at KMLabs and the Colorado School of Mines on using blue laser diodes to pump a Ti:sapphire laser (page 35)—illustrating yet one more application for this extremely versatile tool that also enables optical data storage and fiber-optic communications.

Key developments can happen when you least expect them. One with such potential is the recent publication of Harnessing Light: Optical Science and Engineering for the 21st Century, by the National Academies, and its call for a National Photonics Initiative (you can download a copy at www.opticsandphotonics.org).

And a second, related development: Microsoft is hoping to hire hundreds of experienced optical engineers. This says much about current competitive markets and the powerful enabling role that photonics plays. Microsoft, Amazon, Google—with their readers and tablets, game boxes, fiber-optic networks, and optics-based cloud farms—are prime examples of how far we've come since that time 50 years ago when a few researchers worked weekends to make a p-n junction semiconductor laser.

About the Author

Conard Holton | Editor at Large

Conard Holton has 25 years of science and technology editing and writing experience. He was formerly a staff member and consultant for government agencies such as the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the International Atomic Energy Agency, and engineering companies such as Bechtel. He joined Laser Focus World in 1997 as senior editor, becoming editor in chief of WDM Solutions, which he founded in 1999. In 2003 he joined Vision Systems Design as editor in chief, while continuing as contributing editor at Laser Focus World. Conard became editor in chief of Laser Focus World in August 2011, a role in which he served through August 2018. He then served as Editor at Large for Laser Focus World and Co-Chair of the Lasers & Photonics Marketplace Seminar from August 2018 through January 2022. He received his B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania, with additional studies at the Colorado School of Mines and Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

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