Taking aim at missiles

Sept. 1, 2004
In his memoir, How the Laser Happened, Nobel Laureate Charles Townes notes that, since their invention, lasers have provoked people to imagine them turned by the military into death rays and that a great deal of money has actually been spent trying to use lasers to destroy incoming missiles.

In his memoir, How the Laser Happened, Nobel Laureate Charles Townes notes that, since their invention, lasers have provoked people to imagine them turned by the military into death rays and that a great deal of money has actually been spent trying to use lasers to destroy incoming missiles. Even before the laser's invention, death rays were an integral part of science fiction—dating back at least as early as Tolstoy's 1926 novel The Garin Death Ray, says Townes.

And while shooting down missiles with lasers may still be—for the most part—science fiction, other programs aimed at development of high-energy tactical laser weapons for the battlefield seem to be a little closer to reality. In fact, competing laboratory versions of these lasers are scheduled for demonstration in December of this year. Based on solid-state technology, the three prototype systems are expected to deliver approximately 25-kW average power from designs that can subsequently be scaled to much higher output (see p. 61). One of the lasers—from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories—is featured on our cover.

Aside from the death-ray concept, of course, lasers have many other nonlethal applications both on and off the battlefield. The advent of miniature CO2 lasers, for instance, has broadened their use in spectroscopy, while also delivering a portable source of infrared illumination for thermal imaging applications (see p. 89).

There are a number of solutions for imaging in low-light situations and two possible options are electron-multiplying CCDs and intensified CCDs. But which is the better of the two? A detailed look at the theoretical performance of both devices produces an answer that may surprise you (see p. 69). Meanwhile, advances in image sensors and associated processors are making machine vision much more accessible, so vision systems are increasingly apparent on the factory floor and elsewhere, providing automated inspection of everything from wood to biological cells (see p. 94).

About the Author

Stephen G. Anderson | Director, Industry Development - SPIE

 Stephen Anderson is a photonics industry expert with an international background and has been actively involved with lasers and photonics for more than 30 years. As Director, Industry Development at SPIE – The international society for optics and photonics – he is responsible for tracking the photonics industry markets and technology to help define long-term strategy, while also facilitating development of SPIE’s industry activities. Before joining SPIE, Anderson was Associate Publisher and Editor in Chief of Laser Focus World and chaired the Lasers & Photonics Marketplace Seminar. Anderson also co-founded the BioOptics World brand. Anderson holds a chemistry degree from the University of York and an Executive MBA from Golden Gate University.    

Sponsored Recommendations

Optical Power Meters for Diverse Applications

April 30, 2024
Bench-top single channel to multichannel power meters, Santec has the power measurement platforms to meet your requirements.

Request a quote: Micro 3D Printed Part or microArch micro-precision 3D printers

April 11, 2024
See the results for yourself! We'll print a benchmark part so that you can assess our quality. Just send us your file and we'll get to work.

Request a Micro 3D Printed Benchmark Part: Send us your file.

April 11, 2024
See the results for yourself! We'll print a benchmark part so that you can assess our quality. Just send us your file and we'll get to work.

Request a free Micro 3D Printed sample part

April 11, 2024
The best way to understand the part quality we can achieve is by seeing it first-hand. Request a free 3D printed high-precision sample part.

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Laser Focus World, create an account today!