On Oct. 26, we hosted a presentation by noted physicist Dr. Robert L. Byer from Stanford University as part of our 60th Anniversary celebration.
During the talk, Dr. Byer emphasized the importance of basic research to the laser effort, noting that no one realized the numerous applications and everyday utility of the laser when it was first demonstrated in 1960.
In the early days of laser research, and its forerunner, the maser, it was common for critics to dismiss these research efforts as “Means of Acquiring Support for Expensive Research.” But as Dr. Byer pointed out, lasers are a stealth utility–not visible to the general public but critical to everyday life. Without them we would not have electricity generation, Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation would cease, and we could not even check out items at the store register.
Lasers are critical not only to the commercial world, but to defense as well, and while we do not as yet have Starship Enterprise photon torpedoes, we do have lasers that safely and efficiently strip the paint from planes, help to repair the coatings on stealth aircraft, clean jet engine turbine blades and employ lasers for scanning aircraft for body integrity, to name just a few applications.
Dr. Byer predicted that laser scientists of future generations will produce applications that will be as dramatic as current laser accomplishments would seem to everyone sixty years ago when the laser was in its infancy.
Dr. Byer has conducted research and taught classes at Stanford University since 1969. He has made numerous contributions to laser science and technology including the demonstration of the first tunable visible parametric oscillator, and the development of the Q-switched unstable resonator Nd YAG laser. At present, he is developing nonlinear optical materials and laser diode pumped solid state laser sources for applications to gravitational wave detection and to laser particle acceleration.