achievement award showed the trend,
going to Uniphase (San Jose, CA) for a
compact 100 m W diode-pumped doubled
green laser. The following year’s award,
announced in January 1996, went to
Lightwave Electronics (Mountain View,
CA) for a singlemode 2 W diode-pumped
green laser— 20 times more powerful
than the previous year’s winner. On the
back cover of that issue, Spectra-Physics
announced a 5 W diode-pumped green la-
ser that ran on single-phase 110 V power.
The power of fiber lasers grew quietly
in the shadow of the Bubble mania. In
1996, IPG Photonics (Oxford, MA), together with Polaroid, Spectra Diode Labs,
and Spectra-Physics, introduced 10-W diode-pumped ytterbium-doped fiber la-
sers. IPG reached 100 W in 2000, and
in our August 2002 issue IPG founder
Valentin Gapontsev described further ad-
vances, including IPG’s new 2 k W CW in-
dustrial fiber laser “for heavy-duty metal-welding applications in the auto industry.”
The package was 1. 18 × 1. 1 × 0.6 m.
Fiber lasers had become an important
part of the laser market by 2004, with
sales reaching 2342 units worth $84 mil-
lion, our January 2005 issue reported.
Lamp-pumped lasers accounted for most
of the dollars in solid-state sales, $644
million, but the 15,000 units fell short
of the nearly 15,600 bulk diode-pumped
lasers, with a total price of $270 million.
The same issue reported an impressive
technical achievement with Ti-sapphire,
producing an intensity of 7 x 1021 W/
cm2 with a 30 fs, 1.4-J pulse.
High-power solid-state lasers
In an April 2007 feature, I described the
Pentagon’s Joint High Power Solid-State
Laser (JHPSSL) weapon program that
was based on diode-pumped slab lasers.
The goal was to demonstrate 100 k W out-
put for 500 s from an electrically powered
laser by the end of 2008 for use against
rockets, artillery, and mortars. Northrop-
Grumman (Redondo Beach, CA) report-
ed their success in March 2009. The same
year the Lawrence Livermore National
Ignition Facility (NIF), which program
director Ed Moses called “the biggest
and most complex optical instrument
ever built,” as well as the world’s high-
est-energy laser. A November 2009 fea-
ture reported plans to ramp ultraviolet
pulse energy slowly to the full 1. 8 MJ
level, aiming to ignite fusion plasmas by
2012. In 2010, I toured NIF while attending Photonics West, and was awed by its
scale and complexity. I also was amazed
to be able to buy a doubled green laser
pointer for $15 at the show.
NIF reached 1. 8 MJ in March 2012
and had fired 1100 shots by the end of
the year. However, in February 2013, we
reported it had failed to reach ignition.