Laser powered by recycled fuel tested

Published 11 October 2006

Here is a useful idea which would go a long way toward solving the logistical problems associated with operating laser weapons in the field: Use hydrogen peroxide and chlorine regenerated from waste products from prior laser operations

OK, so this is not like bridging the sublime with the mundane, but still, combining advanced laser with waste-based fuel is bridging a pretty wide gap. Kudos to the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) Directed Energy Directorate and to the Air Force and Boeing teams which successfully conducted the test.

The test was conducted at the directorate’s Dayton, Ohio-based Davis Advanced Laser Facility. A chemical laser was supplied with basic hydrogen peroxide and chlorine regenerated from waste products from prior laser operations. The regenerated fuels were produced in miniaturized electrochemical reactions specifically designed to collect the waste products of laser operations and convert them to fresh fuel. Testers fired a laser with power on the order of several kilowatts, proving its performance.

Jason Marshall, research chemist and Air Force project officer on the program, said: “This fuel recycling process can be continued indefinitely, providing a practical way to fuel laser weapons for the Air Force and other military services without the complexity and cost of periodically supplying new fuel to the battlefield.” The advantages? “The laser is ready for affordable, low-risk weapons applications that meet war-fighter needs. It will substantially improve war-fighting logistics.”

The chemical laser used in this demonstration is aimed to be a part of a laser device to be carried on an Air Force C-130 Hercules. The device will be used to destroy, damage, or disable ground targets with surgical precision, causing little or no collateral damage.

Boeing’s Canoga Park, California-based Directed Energy Systems (formerly the Laser & Electro Optical Systems business segment, or L&EOS) is the prime contractor for the Advanced Tactical Laser. The Air Force’s Directed Energy Directorate is providing Boeing with technical expertise and support on the project.

Boeing has a long association with the U.S. Air Force’s directed energy weapon program. Back in January, the company’s Directed Energy Systems unit (still under its original name, L&EOS) received a contract worth up to $413 million to continue supporting two U.S. Air Force laboratories engaged in cutting-edge research on high energy laser and satellite tracking technologies. The contract called for L&EOS to provide technical support services at the Maui Space Surveillance System (MSSS) in Hawaii and the Starfire Optical Range at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

-read more in this Technology News Daily report