Engineers Develop Key New Plasma Laser Beam

Three CU Engineers Develop Key New Plasma Laser Beam
Columbia Record, by Howard Heller

A new type of laser, in principle more powerful and efficient than conventional ones, has been developed by three engineers in the Plasma Physics Laboratory.

David McDermott, Thomas Marshall, and Perry Schlesinger worked with scientists at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C. to develop the new instrument, called a plasma laser.

According to Marshall, its unusual combination of power, efficiency, and tunability over a wide range of frequencies results from the use of plasma, a dense beam of electrons travelling at almost the speed of light, as the lasing substance.

The light beam of conventional lasers is produced by exciting atoms of molecules to simultaneously emit photons of light energy which have the same frequency and wavelength. A beam of high intensity "coherent" light results.

The plasma laser, according to Schlesinger and Marshall, "fills an important gap between the (electromagnetic) spectrum's millimeter and near-infrared regions", having "penetrated that region of the electromagnetic spectrum for the first time."

When a practical version of the prototype model is made, the device may find military and technological applications in the separation of fissionable from non-fissionable uranium, fusion, radar, and communications.

Furthermore, laser weaponry was tested successfully for the first time this year, and is expected to become a major factor in the U.S.- U.S.S.R. arms race.

The concept for the laser's design was developed as part of McDermott's doctoral research, supported by a grant from the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research. The laser itself was tested at the Naval Research Laboratory.

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