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The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
Board on Physics and Astronomy
Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences

Scientific Assessment of Free-Electron Laser Technology for Naval Applications



Scientific Assessment of High-Power Free-Electron Laser Technology 

Released 2009

This book presents a scientific assessment of free-electron-laser technology for naval applications. The charge from the Office of Naval Research was to assess whether the desired performance capabilities are achievable or whether fundamental limitations will prevent them from being realized. The present study identifies the highest-priority scientific and technical issues that must be resolved along the development path to achieve a megawatt-class free-electron laser. In accordance with the charge, the committee considered (and briefly describes) trade-offs between free-electron lasers and other types of lasers and weapon systems to show the advantages free-electron lasers offer over other types of systems for naval applications as well as their drawbacks.

The primary advantages of free-electron lasers are associated with their energy delivery at the speed of light, selectable wavelength, and all-electric nature, while the trade-offs for free-electron lasers are their size, complexity, and relative robustness. Also, Despite the significant technical progress made in the development of high-average-power free-electron lasers, difficult technical challenges remain to be addressed in order to advance from present capability to megawatt-class power levels.

Committee Members and NRC Staff

Thomas Katsouleas, Chair, University of Southern California
Ricardo Alarcon, Arizona State University
John Albertine, Independent Consultant
Ilan Ben-Zvi, Brookhaven National Laboratory
Sandra Biedron, Argonne National Laboratory
Charles A. Brau, Vanderbilt University
William Colson, U.S. Naval Postgraduate School
Ronald C. Davidson, Princeton University
VADM Paul G. Gaffney II, Monmouth University
Lia Merminga, Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility
Joel D. Miller, The Johns Hopkins University
Brian E. Newnam, Los Alamos National Laboratory, retired
Patrick O’ Shea, University of Maryland
Donald Prosnitz, RAND Corp.
Elihu Zimet, Independent Consultant

NRC Staff

Donald C. Shapero, Director
Cy Butner, Senior Program Officer, NR
Caryn Knutsen, Program Associate


The committee is pleased to acknowledge support from the Office of Naval Research.