NEWPORT NEWS, Va., June 19 -- Researchers at the US Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility have produced first light from their 10-kilowatt (kW) free-electron laser, or FEL -- an upgrade of the "one kilowatt infrared demonstration" FEL that broke power records in 1999 by delivering 2,100 watts of infrared light. The improved FEL, designed to produce 10 kWs of infrared and one kW of ultraviolet light, is being prepared to produce 10 kWs by the end of summer.
The Navy's interest in this technology is to develop an electrically driven tunable laser that can operate at infrared wavelengths where light is most efficiently transmitted in the atmosphere for potential applications in shipboard defense.
During the 2 1/2 years the so-called one-kilowatt FEL operated, it broke existing power records for tunable high-average power lasers. It was used by more than 30 different research groups representing the Navy, NASA, universities and industry for a variety of applications -- from the investigation of new cost-effective methods for producing carbon nanotubes and understanding the dynamics of hydrogen defects in silicon, to investigating how proteins transport energy.
To enable experimenters to probe deep inside the atom's nucleus with electrons, Jefferson Lab pioneered superconducting technology for accelerating electrons to high energy in efficient, cost-effective accelerators. Its superconducting electron-accelerating technology offers two commanding cost advantages for FELs, researchers said: The laser can stay on 100 percent of the time instead of only 1 or 2 percent, and more than 90 percent of the energy that is not converted to useful light in a single pass can be recycled.
The FEL upgrade project is funded by the Department of Defense's Office of Naval Research, Air Force Research Laboratory and the Joint Technology Office. Jefferson Lab is managed for the Department of Energy's Office of Science by a consortium of universities in the southeast called the Southeastern Universities Research Association.
For more information, visit: www.jlab.org