Military chemical laser runs on recycled fuel

Recycling is as useful to the military as it is to the civilian world.

Nov 1st, 2006
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Recycling is as useful to the military as it is to the civilian world. Engineers at the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL; Kirtland Air Force Base, NM) have developed a system that recycles the fuels that power a chemical oxygen-iodine laser (COIL) testbed-one similar to the U.S. Department of Defense’s Advanced Tactical Laser (see figure). The goal is to bring the recycling technique to the battlefield, eliminating the need to ship in and dispose of large amounts of caustic laser fuel.

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A COIL requires basic hydrogen peroxide (a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and potassium hydroxide) and chlorine gas. The AFRL engineers created miniaturized electrochemical reactors to regenerate the used laser chemicals. The test laser was then operated at high power on the reused fuel, producing several kilowatts of light at a 1.3 µm wavelength. The fuel-recycling process can be continued indefinitely, notes Jason Marshall, an Air Force research chemist. The Tactical Laser will be flown on an Air Force C130 cargo aircraft, allowing the laser to destroy, damage, or disable ground targets while causing little or no secondary damage. Contact Rich Garcia at juventino.garcia@kirtland.af.mil.

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