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Schott, UScranton Get $2.8M for Exawatt Laser

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DURYEA, Pa., Aug. 5, 2010 — Specialty glass maker Schott North America Inc. and the University of Scranton will receive $2.8 million in federal funds for research and development into the creation of a laser a thousand times more powerful than any available today, Pennsylvania Congressman Paul E. Kanjorski announced Wednesday.

A worker examines a piece of laser glass made by Schott Glass Technologies in Duryea, Pa. Laser applications require glass that is highly homogeneous and free of internal defects. (Photos courtesy Schott North America)

The funds will allow Schott and the university to work toward building an exawatt laser. There is currently no exawatt laser in existance, although researchers at the Texas Petawatt Laser, now the world's most powerful laser, have plans to build one. A petawatt is 1 quadrillion-watts; an exawatt is equivalent to 1000 petawatts (1018 W). Europe's Extreme Light Infrastructure (ELI) project is also working to build a laser in the exawatt regime, with a goal to have it working in 2015.

The funding will enable Schott's Duryea facility to keep its existing employees and maybe even add manufacturing jobs in the future as it continues to expand its R&D efforts in this new field, Kanjorski said in statement. Schott, which has 246 employees in Duryea, will create the glass needed to handle the ultrashort, ultrastrong pulses of the exawatt laser.

The federal funding was secured in the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2010, which was enacted on Dec. 19, 2009, Kanjorski said.

"This innovation seed funding that [Kanjorski] obtained for laser materials development will enable Schott's regional R&D center and Schott's Duryea flagship glass production facility to remain competitive as the global leader of advanced laser glass development," said Dr. Gerald Fine, president and CEO of Schott North America.

Fine told Pennsylvania newspaper The Citizen's Voice that it could take five to seven years to turn the idea into a commercial product, but that he believes the technology's viability could be realized after 18 months of research.

Schott North America's 30,300-sq-ft Duryea, Pa., site, its flagship for optical glass manufacturing and research in the US since July 1969.

Scientists at the University of Scranton work with Schott to provide necessary expertise and equipment to make the research of this new, high-powered laser possible. Also, some undergraduates at the university who are studying physics or chemistry are able to get involved and get a hands-on learning experience by participating in the project.

An exawatt laser would have the ability to destroy cancer tumors by focusing a beam specifically where the tumor is located without harming nearby healthy tissue. Schott and university officials said they also envision a more affordable and compact version of the laser could be developed to make it more accessible to many more patient treatment facilities.

The extreme power of the laser also makes it attractive for military uses, such as to conduct improved enemy weapons detection and to quickly disrupt and destroy the electronic components of the adversary's equipment, making them useless in combat. The exawatt laser can also be used by physicists for elementary particle physics experiments.

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Aug 2010
AmericasBasic ScienceBusinesscancerdefenseDepartment of Defense Appropriations ActDuryeaELIexawatt laserExtreme Light Infrastructurefederal fundsGerald FineindustrialopticsPaul Kanjorskipetawatt laserSchott North AmericaTexas Petawatt LaserThe Citizens Voicetumorsultrapowerfuluniversity of scrantonlasers

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