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Key Piece of Laser Weapon Built

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LANL scientists are instrumental in making breakthrough for the Navy

By John Severance

Thanks to the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Navy took a big step in its quest to build a powerful new anti-aircraft gun.
LANL scientists have achieved a breakthrough with the Office of Naval Research’s Free Electron Laser (FEL) program, demonstrating an injector capable of producing the electrons needed to generate powerful megawatt-class laser beams for the Navy’s next-generation weapon system.
The Dec. 20 milestone, which happened months ahead of schedule, was highlighted in a two-day preliminary design review Jan. 20-21 in Virginia.
“The injector performed as we predicted all along,’’ said Dr. Dinh Nguyen, senior project leader for the FEL program at the lab. “But until now, we didn’t have the evidence to support our models. We were so happy to see our design, fabrication and testing efforts finally come to fruition. We’re currently working to measure the properties of the continuous electron beams, and hope to set a world record for the average current of electrons.’’
Nguyen said Boeing, which had a measurement of 32 milliampere in 1993, holds the record for measuring properties of the continuous electron beams. The project leader said, “We are not there yet but we hope to break it in the near future.”


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