Marking milestones

Next month, May, happens to be the 48th anniversary of the demonstration of the first working laser by Theodore Maiman at Hughes Research Laboratories in Malibu, CA.

Apr 1st, 2008
Th Sanderson

Next month, May, happens to be the 48th anniversary of the demonstration of the first working laser by Theodore Maiman at Hughes Research Laboratories in Malibu, CA. May also happens to be the first anniversary of Maiman’s death. So it seems fitting that the program for this year’s Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics (CLEO)–also in May–includes a special symposium organized as a tribute to Maiman. The symposium (on May 4) is intended to describe the events leading to the first laser and the pervasive impact it has had on all aspects of modern society. Among the speakers is Maiman’s widow, Kathleen Maiman, Laser Focus World contributing editor Jeff Hecht, and David Hanna of Southampton’s Optoelectronics Research Centre who reflects on 48 years of lasing (see www.cleoconference.org).

The output of Maiman’s first ruby laser was a far cry from that of today’s lasers, which continue to evolve in many different directions. Advances in high-energy lasers have recently resulted in a petawatt-scale system with peak power of 300 TW that produces record intensity from a repetitively pulsed system (see cover and page 18). The researchers will discuss this system at CLEO (paper JWD7). And in the semiconductor arena, advances in quantum cascade (QC) lasers–explained by QC laser co-inventor Jérôme Faist on page 71–are producing ongoing improvements such as extended spectral output. Faist is also presenting a paper at CLEO covering the design and applications of terahertz QC lasers (paper CMV1). As laser output power and wavelength range have increased over the years, pulse widths have become shorter, opening up new areas of research and applications. Using ultrashort pulses in microstructured optical fibers, researchers in Scotland have performed the first experimental demonstration of an artificial event horizon in optics (see page 40)–the subject of paper JWD7 at CLEO. And at Monday’s CLEO plenary session (about the Laser Interferometer Gravitation-Wave Observatory) we’ll be announcing the winner of this year’s PhAST/Laser Focus World Innovation Award (see www.phastconference.org/innovation/).

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Stephen G. Anderson
Associate Publisher/Editor in Chief
stevega@pennwell.com

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