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67-Kilowatt Laser Unveiled 395

Posted by kdawson
from the very-big-sharks dept.
s31523 writes "Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California has announced they have working in the lab a Solid State Heat Capacity Laser that averages 67 kW. It is being developed for the military. The chief scientist Dr. Yamamoto is quoted: 'I know of no other solid state laser that has achieved 67 kW of average output power.' Although many lasers have peaked at higher capacities, getting the average sustained power to remain high is the tricky part. The article says that hitting the 100-kW level, at which point it would become interesting as a battlefield weapon, could be less than a year away."
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67-Kilowatt Laser Unveiled

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  • Obligatory (Score:4, Funny)

    by Sneakernets (1026296) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @06:13PM (#18136906) Journal
    Cue the frickin' lasers jokes in 3...2...1...
  • Eleven (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 24, 2007 @06:18PM (#18136940)
    But my laser goes all the way up to 11 ...
  • tag it ohgodsomeonewilltagthissharks instead and show some originality
  • by ArmorFiend (151674) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @06:20PM (#18136966) Homepage Journal
    Yawn...somebody wake me when they can make it 500 pounds, 2 spaces, $8000, and it can cut through an engine block in 1/10th of a second.

    -Uncle Albert

  • Or just incinerate my brain and explosively detach the back of my skull?
    • by Kjella (173770) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @06:38PM (#18137152) Homepage
      You know, I think you should try it. I hear you can get a scientific award for experiments like that, though I hear it's named after someone who is controversial in US schools.
    • Someone comes up with some amazing, high tech solutions which I don't know, let you reflect light, or maybe bend it. This "laser shield" would have to be small enough to carry, compact, say small enough to fit in a woman's handbag or maybe a gent's toiletry bag.

      Anyway, just a thought, it'll probably take the military billions of dollars and a decade or two to come up with something like that.
       
      • by nasor (690345)
        It says that the laser wavelength is 1 micron (into the infrared). Since glass isn't transparent to that wavelength, you can't reflect it with a mirror.
        • by fyngyrz (762201) * on Saturday February 24, 2007 @07:17PM (#18137486) Homepage Journal
          It says that the laser wavelength is 1 micron (into the infrared). Since glass isn't transparent to that wavelength, you can't reflect it with a mirror.

          You need to put the reflective surface on the intercept side of the substrate, glass or otherwise. That way, it is the first thing the laser hits. And of course, you'd better make sure that the efficiency is high enough that the laser doesn't manage to ablate the coating. Maybe coatings aren't that good an idea in the first place. Maybe thick, mirror-polished armor that can direct heat away from the surface really quickly is more what you want. Of course, a little dirt on there, you have a localized heat event, and all of a sudden things aren't as reflective as they should be, and zonk, you have a hole right through the armor.

          100 KW for a battlefield laser, eh? Personally, I'm thinking being in front of one of these is a very, very bad idea.

        • by norton_I (64015)
          (ordinary) glass is transparent at 1 micron. It is also transparent at 1.5 microns -- telecom laser communication travels down glass fibers at the wavelength.
      • by evanbd (210358) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @07:53PM (#18137800)

        If your mirror is 99% reflective (which would be very, very good -- and it won't stay that way in a dusty dirty battlefield), you'd still be absorbing 1kW of power. Which might be very easy or very hard to dissipate, depending on the beam diameter and how well the targeting system can keep it on the same piece of armor. And, as soon as your armor starts to heat up more than a little, the reflectivity will drop and it will fail.

        Everyone always thinks mirrors are an easy answer to laser weapons, but it's not really that simple; sure they're worth considering, but they're not obviously a winning strategy.

        A better armor might actually be an ablative -- eg a phenolic or graphite plate that absorbs all the heat at the very surface, and vaporizes into a cloud of gas that then takes the majority of the heating while the armor continues ablating from conducted heat and laser heating that gets through -- meanwhile the targeting system frantically tries to keep the laser on the same spot long enough to punch all the way through, and the tank driver tries to conduct evasive action. Modern ablative technology for rocket engines can take 1kW/cm^2 of heating and last for minutes of service; ablatives derived from such technologies might make very effective armors.

    • Worse (Score:5, Funny)

      by LordEd (840443) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @07:16PM (#18137476)
      The RIAA is terrified that it will be used to burn DVDs at a range of 500 meters. Drive-by piracy is here: hide your children, lock your doors, hire your lawyers!
  • by Dahamma (304068) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @06:26PM (#18137030)
    ...will be the "Yamamoto Cannon".

    (damn, why couldn't he have been Dr. Yamato)
  • by SRA8 (859587) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @06:29PM (#18137060)
    Let me guess -- the Pentagon now has everything it needs to proceed with the Death Star?
  • by volpe (58112) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @06:31PM (#18137074)
    I want five megawatts by mid-May.
  • Too big (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MichaelSmith (789609) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @06:32PM (#18137080) Homepage Journal

    Picture [bbc.co.uk] in TFA shows a trailer which you would presumably tow through the streets of Baghdad zapping potential IED's but the opposition in that country have shown that they have the ability to adapt to changed conditions. So the bombs they plant will be in places you can't tow a huge trailer, or outside a place where blowing up the IED will only make you get the blame for killing civilians.

    Too much overhead, not enough payload.

    • "[Bad guys] have shown that they have the ability to adapt to changed conditions."

      IDE's disguised as mirror balls?
  • by viking2000 (954894) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @06:38PM (#18137146)
    The article does not mention that any reflection off whatever the laser is aiming at is many kW as well. A small polished piece of steel would reflect 80% in some random direction, and the beam will go until it reaches something. Only a few milli Watts would be sufficient to damage the eyes of civilian spectators, so a reflection could easily permanently blind everyone in a football stadium of 50000 people.
    • by Wicko (977078) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @06:41PM (#18137178)
      That would be one hell of a light show.
    • by nasor (690345)
      The article says that the laser's wavelength is 1 micron. The outer surface of the human eye isn't transparent to that wavelength, so you wouldn't have to worry about eye damage.
      • by viking2000 (954894) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @07:16PM (#18137478)
        1 micron is 1000nm, and will penetrate the eyeball just fine. It will not focus fully on the retina. 400-1400nm radiation will penetrate the eye ball and may cause heating of the retina, whereas exposure to laser radiation with wavelengths less than 400 nm and greater than 1400 nm are largely absorbed by the cornea and lens, leading to the development of cataracts or burn injuries.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by LabRat (8054)
        Maybe not retinal damage, but "not transparent" generally means "will absorb"...so you'd have have massive epithelial and corneal damage instead. Basically like having a LASIK device going randomly berserk on you. Not a happy thought, to say the least. In it's (apparently) intended use for shooting down missiles/mortars in the short-range theater...the ranges involved shouldn't allow for much in the way of intensity of the scatter. Use against nearby ground targets is, of course, might be a different st
      • That's near infrared (only ~30% outside the visible range), and everyone working with lasers in that range wears goggles because they need them.
    • That's why interpretations of the Geneva convention suggest that it's a violation to use lasers. Of course, when we get leaders that intentionally play dumb when it suits them, they find ways around it. I've seen reports, I think in a couple AP stories, that the Soviets and Chinese have used lasers to try to interfere with pilots. I should say that haven't confirmed them with other sources.
    • by repvik (96666)
      Oooooh! I want a couple of these lasers. And one of them disco-ball-thingys!
  • 67kW? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Cynical_Dude (548704) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @06:38PM (#18137156)
    67 kW? Thats nice. Another 933 kW and we can mount it on my Cobra Mark III.
  • by crankyspice (63953) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @06:52PM (#18137252)
    Do I make a Real Genius joke, or a StarCraft joke?
  • ... the Iraqi insurgents come up with the 100kW mirror!
  • by vandan (151516) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @06:58PM (#18137300) Homepage
    Can't say I'm surprised really. The funny thing is that no other nation sees the need to spend anything like the US military budget. I suppose the argument goes that there are people around the world who hate freedom, and since the US is the 'most free' nation on Earth, well, they're prime targets. Problem is that the US isn't the 'most free' nation on Earth - not by a long shot. Scratch that theory. The alternate argument goes that there are a lot of people around the world who hate US foreign police. This argument seems far more sensible. So for US citizens, the correct path would be to change foreign policy, right? Problem is, US citizens don't live in a democracy, so can't affect the foreign policy of their ruling class. Think I'm wrong? Think again. They just voted out the Republicans in an absolute landslide which is largely recognised as being a rejection of Republican foreign policy, but you watch just how much that policy changes, both now AND when they get rid of Emperor Dubya.

    For those who see these laser protecting them from the terrorists' attacks on their homes, I think this is being a bit naive. This laser is to protect military equipment on the battlefield, and the ruling class at home. Just look at how the military didn't lift a finger to stop 9/11, even though they had precise warnings from multiple credible sources. The only thing the US government did was to protect Bin Laden's family after 9/11, flying them back home to safety.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The funny thing is that no other nation sees the need to spend anything like the US military budget. The CIA World factbook begs to differ: https://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/rank order/2034rank.html [cia.gov]

      In fact, 25 nations spend a higher percent of their GDP on the militairy than the US does.

      Just look at how the military didn't lift a finger to stop 9/11, even though they had precise warnings from multiple credible sources.

      Really? Where did you read this? I thought it was a big conspiracy
      • by vandan (151516) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @07:30PM (#18137620) Homepage

        In fact, 25 nations spend a higher percent of their GDP on the militairy than the US does.

        This is wrong for a number of reasons.

        Firstly, I didn't mention spending as a percentage of GDP; I was talking about absolute spending.

        Next, comparing spending / GDP with other nations with incredibly low GDPs isn't really giving a clear picture of what's going on. For example, who the hell is Eritrea, the so-called No 1 in military spending in the world? You see, if these countries have a very small GDP, the figures are going to look distorted even if they only buy a couple of grenades.

        Next, the US hides massive amounts of its military spending. The figure they used in that CIA table was the official maintenance cost of the US military. This is the amount that would be required just to keep the military at home. But they're never at home! Things like the wars aren't counted by the US, for some reason. These are 'extra' costs. The trillion dollars that Dubya has asked for to cover the next year in Iraq, well that's not counted. The budget of the CIA, with their military coupes against democratically elected governments and such, well that's not counted. And research on weapons such as this laser. That's not counted either. So you see, if all these things were counted, then the US would be at the top of the list in terms of GDP as well. They're already at the top of the list in absolute terms, which is the point I was originally making.

        Really? Where did you read this? I thought it was a big conspiracy by the tin foil companies.

        That's because you're either in denial, or you'e completely fooled by the propaganda. It's YOU who needs a tin foil hat :)
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ScrewMaster (602015)
        Don't bother him with facts. You'll just distort his prefabricated worldview, and you wouldn't want to do that (just be sure to be completely reasonable when discussing the stupidass things his country's government does, otherwise you might inadvertently expose some hypocrisy.)

        He also forgets that the our military has very limited ability to operate within the territorial United States (e.g. the Posse Comitatus Act.) Oh, I agree that there are many someones, somewhere, who bear the responsibility for not
        • by vandan (151516)
          Prefabricated worldview? Pot? Kettle? Black?

          Do you want to actually take issue with something I've stated, or is it all too hard? I have never tried to deny that my own country is up to its eyeballs in the blood of innocents. We slaughtered the Aboriginals when we arrived, and have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with US and British terrorists ever since. No hypocracy on my side of the fence.

          As for the intelligence 'breakdown' as they call it, that lead to the 9/11 attacks materialising ... I think you'll find t
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Planesdragon (210349)
      Problem is that the US isn't the 'most free' nation on Earth - not by a long shot.

      Name one, and explain how it's more free (not "a better place to live" or "more friendly to the environment").

      Problem is, US citizens don't live in a democracy, so can't affect the foreign policy of their ruling class. Think I'm wrong? Think again. They just voted out the Republicans in an absolute landslide which is largely recognised as being a rejection of Republican foreign policy, but you watch just how much that policy c
      • by iPaul (559200)
        While definitions and yard sticks may differ, Holland. The Dutch seem to enjoy a very broad set of freedoms.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by vandan (151516)

        Name one, and explain how it's more free (not "a better place to live" or "more friendly to the environment").

        Well you're making a very narrow definition of free. Are you saying that a country that bases it's whole existence on unsustainable living and exploiting 3rd world countries is free?

        I already named Venezuela as moving in the right direction, based on 1 definition of 'free'. Want more? Fine. The UK has distinguished itself from both the US and Australia by defending the rights of its citizens illeg

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Planesdragon (210349)
          Well you're making a very narrow definition of free...

          Free (adj): Having a legal respect for and protection of personal liberties.

          I don't know what other definition you could be talking about; America has had a pretty constant definition of "free", and while we're not the only English-speaking country, we got our definition from the British Empire, which is where the rest of the English-peaking world got theirs, too.

          I already named Venezuela as moving in the right direction, based on 1 definition of 'free'.
      • by k2r (255754) on Sunday February 25, 2007 @02:06PM (#18144258)
        >> Problem is that the US isn't the 'most free' nation on Earth - not by a long shot.
        > Name one,
        Germany.

        > and explain how it's more free (not "a better place to live" or "more friendly to the environment").

        If I'm a 17yo guy I can make pictures of my 15yo girlfriend and send them to my email-account
        without both of us getting sued for posession and production of child pornography and being
        trialed as adults and jailed for my own good.

        Of course, I can't yell "Heil Hitler" on the street in Germany without getting into legal trouble but frankly,
        I prefer to live in a country with people taking dirty pictures of themselves than in a country where
        people feel the urge to yell "Heil Hitler" on the street.

        Or being 17yo and getting a blowjob by a 15yo and 10years in jail?
        (http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/eticket/story?page =wilson)
        Or being 15yo and being charged with sexually abusing YOURSELF?
        (http://www.usatoday.com/tech/webguide/internetlif e/2004-03-29-child-self-porn_x.htm)
        Or just google about your sodomy-laws?

        You are only free if it comes to destroying and consuming.

        (and yes, there are a lot of things wrong in Germany, too.)
  • So close (Score:4, Funny)

    by Stephen Tennant (936097) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @07:04PM (#18137368) Journal
    Soon, America will wield the power to project an annoying red dot into any room in North Korea or Iran, disturbing and agitating ANY and ALL cats, and, if the resident is so foolish as to investigate... his very eyes may be irritated, and possibly damaged, after prolonged exposure!
  • WARNING (Score:4, Funny)

    by istartedi (132515) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @07:05PM (#18137378) Journal

    Do not stare into laser with remaining co-worker.

  • Blind Soldiers (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MrSteveSD (801820) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @07:18PM (#18137498)
    If such weapons make their way onto the battlefield, you're going to end up with a lot of blinded soldiers. Any beam powerful enough to be useful will be capable of blinding everyone near the target with the reflected light. In fact, if you put some kind of corner cube reflective coating on the target, there might be enough light sent back to the source to blind the people firing the beam.
    • If this does make it onto the battlefield, I expect the soldiers will wear goggles (yes, they do something) to efficiently block the wavelength used by this laser. There better not be any civilians around, though.
    • by iPaul (559200)
      I saw something a while ago about a Chinese weapons vendor that has a laser blinding weapon. (Much lower power and it seemed portable by a couple of men).
  • by surfcow (169572) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @08:14PM (#18137940) Homepage
    Look at the dot! Chase the dot! Chase the ...

    Uh-oh.
  • by Graymalkin (13732) * on Saturday February 24, 2007 @08:19PM (#18137986)
    The fact the SSHCL is able to get 67kW out of a solid state system is very impressive. Most solid state lasers of this sort have been stuck below 10kW and are only about 1% efficient, a 1kW laser needs 1MW of input power 99% of which needs to be shed by a cooling system. Solid state lasers have a definite advantage over chemical ones like the THEL and ABL because their "ammunition" supply is essentially only limited by the amount of electricity they've got available. Chemical lasers consumer reactants in the lasing process and have a finite number of shots before those reactants are exhausted. Those reactants take up a lot of space as well, Isreal's THEL system requires four semi trailers worth of equipment to shoot down small katyusha rockets and mortar rounds.

    The Air Force has a real hard on for laser systems. Though it doesn't say specifically in the article it appears this lab was awarded the AFRL's contract to produce a solid state equivalent to the ATL system being developed largely by Boeing. The ATL is a smaller cousin of the ABL weighing in at about 70kW. It's an order of magnitude lower power than the roughly 1MW ABL but is also quite a bit smaller. The ABL requires a 747, the ATL is being developed to be mounted on a C-130 or V-22 Osprey. A solid state ATL would be far more useful for the Air Force than a chemical one. A solid state laser system on an aircraft could be powered by generators hooked to the engines and fired an indefinite number of times in flight.
  • by Afecks (899057) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @08:24PM (#18138042)
    First thing that popped into my head was the sound of a Prism Tank blast followed by AAAHHHHH!
  • When can I pick one up at my local sporting goods store? I need it for "deer hunting." (And the simulatenous cooking of the entire animal).
  • by Catbeller (118204) on Saturday February 24, 2007 @11:46PM (#18139582) Homepage
    This gadget will be used as a sniper gun from hell. Mount it on a plane, on a hybrid tank with a kilowatt generator, in a satellite.

    Do we really trust the new SuperPresidents(tm) that Bush has created with a silent assassin from orbit? How long until a terrorist(tm) is smoked? The family around him? An environmentalist - already labeled terrorists. Hell. PETA members are now semi-official terrorists. REPORTERS are being labeled fellow travelers. The Army already smoked one building full of reporters with a tank. They'd love them some lasers. We've killed one foreign head of state by hanging, another still is in prison on charges that no one understands. You think the New American Century Cheney/Rice types will hesitate one second in smoking a head of state?

    What really worries me is, say, an individual with advanced power storage tech (coming soon) or a hybrid car generating enough juice to have a lovely laser handgun. Perfect as a targeting system, perfect as a killer. No noise, good for miles, untraceable by conventional means in real time. Also good for "riot" (AKA protest) control for unruly peons. Goes with the microwave cannon, the electrical stunner, the sound cannon.

    In all of this, how exactly are we becoming safer? What the hell do we need this thing for? and once we show it can be done, the Chinese and the Indian research teams will whack their own models out in a couple of years, selling it to the highest bidder. STREET GANGS will have lasers in fifteen years.

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