Northrop Grumman Makes A 100kW Laser

3-22-09-northrop-laser-system

Defense contractor Northrop Grumman just recently released information that they’ve created a solid state laser that fired over 100kW in a beam – 105.5kW, to be relatively exact.  This mile marker is apparently a big deal, because now Northrop Grumman has entered the weaponized laser market.  This is also significant, as they’ve now created the most powerful ray from an electric laser, ever.  Northrop is part of something called the JHPSSL – The Joint High Power Solid State Laser program, which is dedicated to creating a weaponized laser system, obviously solid state.

Remember the big flying plane laser and the truck laser that shoots down planes?  Those are chemical lasers – the COIL variety (Chemical Oxygen Iodine Laser), at least in the case of the jumbo jet laser.  Chemical lasers are apparently noxious, and freaking huge.  Solid-state lasers are much more compact – but still a little too big to send into battle quite yet.

The method for reaching over 100kW of power from their laser is pretty interesting – a series of laser amplifiers were added together in such a way to increase power with each block.  From Northrop Grumman:

For building blocks, the company utilizes “laser amplifier chains,” each producing approximately 15kW of power in a high-quality beam. Seven laser chains were combined to produce a single beam of 105.5 kW. The seven-chain JHPSSL laser demonstrator ran for more than five minutes, achieved electro-optical efficiency of 19.3 percent, reaching full power in less than 0.6 seconds, all with beam quality of better than 3.0.

100kW is apparently the “proof of principle” used in creating weapons like this – but experts say that 25kW-50kW can also make an effective weapon.  Solid State lasers are preferred in some of these packages because of the compact nature of solid-state.  Chemical lasers depend on the chemical being lased in the chemical devices, and are much more space-consuming.  Even though solid state technology is more compact, it’s still not quite small enough yet.  I bet it won’t take much longer.

I did find a video on this subject, from the LA Times:

northrop2_270x378

Thanks, LA Times and CNET!