Lasers can do more

June 1, 1999
Solid-state lasers typically are the laser of choice for applications that require a relatively high-energy source. Most such applications fall under the materials-processing umbrella and include metal working, marking, and semiconductor processing.

Solid-state lasers typically are the laser of choice for applications that require a relatively high-energy source. Most such applications fall under the materials-processing umbrella and include metal working, marking, and semiconductor processing. Improvements to the related materials-handling, beam-delivery, and control systems combined with more reliable lasers, for instance, have contributed to the emergence of laser metal cutting as a mainstream application that competes directly with conventional machine tools in high-volume manufacturing situations.

One of the most important solid-state laser developments has been the advent of diode pumping, which impacted these lasers in various ways from making them more efficient to opening up new gain media. Although neodymium-doped YAG (Nd:YAG) is by far the most common gain medium for these devices, ytterbium-doped YAG (Yb:YAG) and Nd:YLF may provide preferable alternatives. This month`s cover highlights a multiple-kilowatt Yb:YAG system developed as a result of diode pumping.

Two other "up and coming" laser technologies also are featured this month, vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs) and fiber lasers. VCSELs-which are considered crucial to the long-term success of local optical networks-have the potential of being fabricated in high volumes at costs much lower than the traditional edge-emitting devices. Fiber lasers have been around for more than 30 years but only relatively recently have they started to see commercial success, resulting mostly from new types of fiber designs. This month`s European Report highlights the current status of these lasers and describes some of the emerging applications.

And so can detectors

Meanwhile, new detector technologies and applications are also being developed. Gallium nitride and other nitride-containing semiconductors are leading candidates for ultraviolet detectors that are "blind" to visible and infrared radiation. And a novel setup for a charge-coupled-device array detector has allowed it to be used for both beacon acquisition and tracking in a laser communications unit for operation in deep space. Laser power and energy meters also use detectors, and the increasing number of laser wavelengths has challenged meter manufacturers to keep these instruments properly calibrated.

As of this month, in recognition of his significant contributions to Laser Focus World and the Optoelectronics Report newsletter, Conard Holton has been promoted to Executive Editor/News. In his new role Conard assumes responsibility for all the news reporting and editing.


Thomas Baer, Arcturus Engineering; Dirk Basting, Lambda Physik; Dan Botez, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Philip Brierley,

Pike Technologies; H. John Caulfield, Alabama A&M in Normal; Thomas Giallorenzi, Naval Research Laboratory; David C. Hanna, Southampton University, England; G. J. Dixon, Analytical Light Tools; Bruce S. Hudson, Syracuse University; Ralph R. Jacobs, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; Anthony Johnson, New Jersey Institute of Technology; Chinlon Lin, Tyco Submarine Systems; Jan Melles, Photonics Investments, Duiven, the Netherlands; Gerard A. Mourou, University of Michigan; Masahiro Joe Nagasawa, TEM Co. Ltd., Tokyo, Japan; Dilip K. Paul, Gould Fiber Optics; Harvey Pollicove, University of Rochester; Leonard E. Ravich, Boxford, MA; Ralph A. Rotolante, Vicon Infrared; M. Ya. Schelev, General Physics Institute, Moscow, Russia; Robert R. Shannon, University of Arizona; James J. Snyder, Blue Sky Research; Toby Strite, Uniphase Laser Enterprise, Switzerland; Orazio Svelto, Polytechnic Institute of Milan, Italy; Dinsheng Wang, Institute of Physics, Beijing, China; Colin E. Webb, Oxford University, England; Ahmed Zewail, California Institute of Technology; Joseph van Zwaren, Ministry of Science & Technology, Israel.

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.    

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