In a bit of irony in the world, an article was published recently stating that laser weaponry research has begun to see a bit of stalling out. Weapons scientists haven’t been able to deal with waste heat generated by these mega lasers, and the mirrors and optics needed to focus the lasers onto moving targets can’t handle the power. From the article at New Scientist:
In recent tests, several prototypes have suffered serious damage to their optics at intensities well below the expected levels of tolerance. “Optical damage has been quietly alarming upper management in most major programmes,” Sean Ross of the US Air Force Research Laboratory in New Mexico told a meeting of the Directed Energy Professional Society in Newton, Massachusetts, last week. There are also big problems managing the waste heat generated by high-intensity beams.
In addition to this optics and reflecting problem, heat is also slowing the progress considerably. For every watt of laser fury we develop, four watts of waste heat is generated. Scientists are having a hard time developing a low form factor cooling mechanism that might slow the laser weapons from eating themselves.
Remember the YAL-1? The “Flying Light Saber?” The jumbo jet with a mega chemical laser mounted inside is also experiencing some stalling issues. Again, from the New Scientist article:
Earlier this year in the US, engineers halted tests of the $4.3 billion megawatt-class Airborne Laser short of full power to avoid damaging “a handful of optics in the turret”, according to Mike Rinn, a Boeing vice-president who manages the programme. They realised that the optics, designed years ago, would be “frail” in the presence of any contamination, which would be virtually inevitable in flight. In the next week or so, Boeing engineers will install replacement optics and test them on the ground before running the laser at full power in flight.
Do you think that this should be a signal to focus some laser research in other areas, for example, healing people? I am very critical of energy weapons, I realize – don’t get me wrong, if we have to have mega death killer weapons, I’d much rather the research be in high energy or light-related weaponry than I would them be nuclear, chemical, or biologically based. But instead of using such amazing technology to wipe out life, why not at least, in conjunction with annihilating each other, that we research killing cancer and other worldwide nasties, too.
I cannot for the life of me figure out why we’re not researching helpful uses of high energy technology as much as we are killer weapons. Anyone got an answer for that?