The reason most laser systems aren't practical for jobs outside of the lab--things like missile defense or interstellar empire building--is because of their low efficiency and high maintenance. Powerful lasers are by nature big lasers requiring a lot of per unit input per unit of output, and they tend to need highly controlled conditions to function consistently and flawlessly. But a two-year-old company spun out of MIT's Lincoln Lab says it has broken through several of the usual limitations and is commercializing a direct-diode laser system that is brighter, more powerful, and significantly more compact than its peers.
TeraDiode's system is based on semiconductor laser technology (fueled by electricity rather than chemicals, which is already a plus from a safe-handling standpoint) augmented by an optical system that wrangles several beams of light into a single powerful beam. Powerful enough, the company says, for industrial cutting and welding. Or for blowing stuff up.
Weapons-grade lasers are a tough sell (as regular PopSci readers know from our ongoing boomand bust coverage of the Missile Defense Agency's Airborne Laser Test Bed), but if TeraDiode's system can pack as much punch into a small package as the company claims, it could be onto something.
The company sees its lasers someday deployed on ships or tanks, small enough to be mobile but strong enough to down a UAV or perhaps even knock incoming artillery or RPGs out of the air. More near term, it wants to get its direct-diodes on the back of fighter jets to confuse--or perhaps even destroy--incoming anti-aircraft missiles. And TeraDiode isn't just talking a big game it seems--the company told Xconomy that testing on the aircraft defense system could begin in a year, with deployment in three to five years.
I don't care if i need a backpack full of Li-ion batteries, I just wanna know if i can get it in pistol or riffle form.
all about military usage... What about industrial usage. Seem to be a good tool to steel plate.
And the age of the Laser Anti-Missile System (LAMS) is born.
Oh come now, you just wanted to name it. and give it an achronym right? haha.
How about Laser Point Defense System (LPDS)
Similar to the nebula class starship in ST:Armada 2...
Stupid. smart people create more stuff to kill people. how about using your brain instead of brawn and create stuff that helps people?
This technology looks good, we may actually be able to complete the Star Wars Initiative now.
That is pretty awesome... I think if they get this technology affordable enough it could be a real big deal for the DIY fabricators they sell (the 3D printer things).
The current fabbers are "additive", but with a good enough laser you could have "subtractive" lasers. You just stick a block of aluminum/plastic/wood/whatever into the device and it laser-cuts the 3D thing you want and recycles the left overs...
Hell, you could even combine them. Do the rough printing the way it works now, and then touch up the design or get finer detail by going over it with the laser...
Stick to the industrial applications. As a weapon a laser is easily defeated with a super-reflective coating. Add to this that the object, such as a missile is spinning or intentionally manueuvering, and the laser system is a fail. Besides the laws of physics dictate that the energy falls off far too rapidly. A particle beam, by contrast, would have many advantages over a conventional projectile weapon, and over all be a lot more practical.
have you thought that by killing some people they are in fact helping more people? that's why we went to war, and that's why we go to war. because it's fast, it's deadly, the loser loses, and populations of people are generally left in a better state.
trust me, once it gets into military hands it will then move to everything, if the military doesn't use it for weapons and defense systems they will certainly use it for manufacturing purposes.
this is a tool, once it gets into the market it will move just like that hammer did, just like the drill, just like the band-saw, and just like the screw driver. people will use it, whether it's for building or for destruction isn't in the obligations of the manufacturer.
you need to stop bad mouthing every new thing that comes out simply because it isn't the miracle cure all for saving the world.
to mars or bust!
aarontco says that the laws of physics cause the energy of a laser to fall of too rapidly, and that they are easily defeated by "spinning" and "super-reflective coatings" and general maneuvering...and proposes particle beams instead.
WTF? The entire point of lasers is that they don't have their energy fall off rapidly. Which laws of physics are you referencing? Lasers are by definition coherent & relatively monodirectional. Photons don't spontaneously lose energy. If the beam is coherent (non-interfering) AND they are all traveling in the same direction, then nothing will cause the energy to fall off except a physical barrier between the laser and its target.
It IS true that the atmosphere is made up of atoms which constitute a barrier to light (albeit a minor and flimsy one), but if atmospheric absorption is the "law of physics" to which you refer, you aren't making much sense. There's no "law of physics" that says there will always be an atmosphere or other physical barrier between a target and a laser. Furthermore, "particle beams" (usually meaning electron, positron, proton or anti-proton beams) are MORE susceptible to collision with atmospheric atoms, not less. There is no "law of physics" that makes particle beams inherently longer range.
You really don't know what you're talking about.
Then there's the "super-reflective coating" comment: really? Really? Super-reflective coatings have to be super-clean and super physically perfect. You can't impart those traits to fighter aircraft, missiles, RPGs, mortars, or artillery shells. It can't be done. The travel through the atmosphere causes particles to pit or adhere to the surface. These become vulnerabilities that the first moment of laser-targeting exacerbate. Following photons are not reflected.
While true that with relatively low-power beams it can take some time to "burn through". The point of creating a beam that is high-power in a low volume, however, is that the time becomes reduced so much that there is no way that any missile or projective with fins can spin sufficiently fast to avoid getting punched through.
And energy is energy. If you have a particle beam of the same energy - 1st, more will get lost in the atmosphere along the way, then 2nd, it is even easier to disperse charged particles than it is to disperse photons. That's one reason we invented charge-carrying copper wire before we invented photon carrying fibers.
You just don't know what you're talking about.
One other thing adding onto bicrip. Just mentioning the reflective coating thing, lasers are actually the tools of choice when manufacturing mirrors and are used to cut them all the time.
I would love one of these mounted in an airsoft pistol with just enough power to give your buddy a nice little blister. forget airsoft and paintball, whole new sport right there. except all the forrest fires that would start.....
@ bicrip ; Under your particle beam list, you forgot ions. Also, I suspect that we will come up with shielding that has high enough albedo characteristics to deflect, and eventually absorb laser shots up to whatever magnitude. We have found this to be true with almost everything we've put hand to so far, and I see no reason to think that it won't hold true with high density short duration lasers. 60 years ago we couldn't dent a Panzer tank but we'd blow right through two or three of them with a modern sabot round. I anticipate that the first antilaser shielding will be some sort of variable density scattering field, considering we know that we have no material yet that we can work that has a high albedo rate. We will eventually get to serious deflector shields too. You know these things too, I suspect.