According to Reuters, the U.S. military has given troops in Iraq a laser device to temporarily blind vehicle drivers who ignore warnings at checkpoints.

Pentagon deploys laser at Iraqi checkpoints

According to Reuters, the U.S. military has given troops in Iraq a laser device to temporarily blind vehicle drivers who ignore warnings at checkpoints. Army Lt. Col. Barry Venable, a Pentagon spokesman, stressed that the devices do not cause permanent blindness.

In the Los Angeles Times story that first reported use of the lasers by staff writer Jaimes Rainey, the lasers are raising concerns: a protocol to the Geneva Convention bans the use of lasers that cause blindness. The group Human Rights Watch has said that even less powerful “dazzling” lasers, similar to the one to be deployed in Iraq, can cause permanent damage. The military, however, has apparently decided the risks can be minimized through proper training and are worth taking to help U.S. troops ward off suicide attacks and to reduce accidental shootings of Iraqi civilians.

Antisatellite laserweapon stymied

The U.S. House Armed Services Committee deleted an ongoing Air Force effort to develop antisatellite laser weapons from the fiscal 2007 defense authorization bill. With publicly identified funding of $6.5 million a year, that effort accounted for only a small fraction of all Pentagon spending on laser weapons. But it was the only program identified in the unclassified Air Force budget proposal aimed at antisatellite weapon applications.

A key concern is that blowing up satellites could produce space debris that destroys other satellites, creating a cascade of debris endangering everything in low Earth orbit, and could trigger retaliation against other U.S. satellites.

Automotive laser workshop gets new ownership

The Laser Institute of America (LIA; Orlando, FL) and the Fabricators and Manufacturers Association (FMA; Rockford, IL) have purchased the Automotive Laser Application Workshop (ALAW) from founder Frank DiPietro. At its peak, the annual event drew around 400 attendees; in recent years, attendance had leveled off at around 200. But with speakers from around the world, the ALAW has become known as a major forum for advancing the use of lasers in automotive applications.

For the LIA and FMA, the joint acquisition represents an opportunity to bring together the laser technology and safety standards expertise of LIA and the metal fabricating industry and educational strengths of FMA to produce an educational conference beneficial to both organizations’ members and readers.

Cutera, Palomar settle patent litigation

Aesthetic-laser manufacturer Cutera (Brisbane, CA) will pay Palomar Medical Technologies (Burlington, MA) $22 million in royalties as part of a settlement related to hair-removal patent-infringement lawsuits with Palomar. As part of this transaction, Cutera and Palomar have agreed to refrain from asserting any further patent claims against the other’s current product offerings.

Cree gets $180 million for solid-state lighting

Cree (Durham, NC), a supplier of LED solid-state lighting components, announced that its Japanese distributor, Sumitomo, will purchase $180 million of Cree’s light-emitting-diode (LED) and wafer products during Cree’s fiscal year ending June 2007-approximately a 10% increase over Cree’s current estimate for fiscal 2006 sales to Sumitomo.

“We are excited about promoting Cree’s advanced LED products in the coming year. Breakthroughs in performance are opening doors to multiple new applications, especially in the consumer electronics and general lighting areas,” states Koichiro Kusano, assistant general manager of Sumitomo’s Electronics Division.

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Also in the news . . .

Modulight (Tampere, Finland) received a $364,000 contract from the European Space Agency (ESA) to develop lasers for the onboard atomic clock upgrades for a second-generation system of the European satellite navigation mission Galileo. . . . OccuLogix (Toronto, ON, Canada) signed a letter of intent to acquire SOLX (Boston, MA), a privately held company that has developed a laser system for the treatment of glaucoma. . . . Corelase Oy (Tampere, Finland), a manufacturer of high-power fiber-laser products, has partnered with Ergolase (Santa Clara, CA), a startup dedicated to applying emerging laser technologies to high-growth markets, to expand its U.S. presence. . . . IMRA America (Ann Arbor, MI) signed an agreement with Lehrstuhl für Lasertechnik RWTH University Aachen/Fraunhofer Institut für Lasertechnik (Aachen, Germany) for the creation of the Premier Application Laboratory to accelerate opportunities for feasibility studies using IMRA’s ultrafast fiber lasers in Europe. . . . American Medical Systems (Minneapolis, MN), a provider of pelvic health solutions to urologists, will pay $715 million for Laserscope (San Jose, CA), developer of laser surgical treatments of obstructive benign prostatic hyperplasia. . . . After acquiring the outstanding shares of Quintessence Photonics in a reverse merger transaction, Planning Force (Sylmar, CA) has changed its name to QPC Lasers.

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