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New Rules Expected for Laser Exports

Photonics Spectra
Dec 2006
Because lasers are “dual use” items — they have both military and civilian applications — they have long been subject to legal export controls imposed by the US government. The controls are not unilateral US controls, however, but are the result of an international agreement among dozens of industrial nations. This agreement, called the Wassenaar Arrangement, was modified recently to incorporate the first overhaul of the laser controls in more than a decade.

The new export rules for lasers are expected to be integrated into the legal code of the US and other Wassenaar countries during 2007. They differ from the rules now in effect in that they apply to the optical beam emitted from the laser and not to the technologies — e.g., Q-switching, Nd:YAG — that are employed to generate the beam. The new rules also update ambiguous and outdated controls affecting fiber lasers, nonlinear optics and large high-power industrial lasers.

The new controls became public earlier this month and can be found on the Wassenaar Web site ( A feature article in the January issue of Photonics Spectra will describe their evolution.

The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
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