CHIRPED-pulse amplification strikes again. Using it in a high-peak-power mode, Laboratory scientists produced first the 100-terawatt laser and then the petawatt laser, opening up new opportunities for applying laser-matter interactions. Now a Livermore team has won an R&D 100 Award for applying chirped-pulse amplification in a high-average-power mode for cutting and machining materials. The system was developed for disassembling nuclear weapons components, but it has many other uses as well.|
The team, led by Brent Stuart, illustrates Livermore's collaborative nature by combining research and development expertise from Laser Programs and Defense and Nuclear Technologies Directorates.
From Demilitarization to Dentistry
Removal of minimal amounts of material makes this new cutting system useful for processing extremely valuable or hazardous materials. If the cutting is done in a vacuum, better than 95% of the removed material can be recovered.|
Another Livermore team is building a high-powered femtosecond machining system for the Department of Energy's Y-12 Plant at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, one of this country's primary manufacturers of nuclear weapon components. A second unit at Livermore will be used as engineering support to the Y-12 unit. The high precision of this cutter will maximize the plant's ability to reuse high-value components and minimize the amount of waste generated during the cutting process.
Livermore is studying the use of the Femtosecond Laser to machine high explosives for experiments at its High Explosives Applications Facility. Because so little energy or mechanical shock is transferred to the part being machined, the team has demonstrated that materials such as high explosives or parts containing high explosives can be cut without danger of detonation. The team is also working on the design of a system for demilitarizing chemical weapons.
Other potential applications abound. Using the laser as a surgical tool for soft tissue has already been discussed in Science & Technology Review (October 1995). A semiconductor device producer is exploring the use of the unit for cutting high-value semiconductor wafers. Other major U.S. manufacturers are looking into incorporating femtosecond machining systems into their production lines. In manufacturing, new materials are constantly appearing, and the features on all kinds of devices are becoming smaller and smaller. The femtosecond machining system may be the most effective way to respond to both challenges with its high precision on all materials regardless of composition.
Key Words: chirped-pulse amplification, demilitarization, femtosecond laser, laser surgery, R&D 100 Award.
For further information on the technology and applications contact Brent Stuart (510) 424-5782 (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Michael Perry (510) 423-4915 (email@example.com).