Clark School Professor Published in Physical Review X

University of Maryland A. James Clark School of Engineering Professor Howard Milchberg (Electrical and Computer Engineering/Physics), recently published work from UMD’s Intense Laser Matter Interactions Group, in Physical Review X, the American Physical Society's (APS) online, open access peer-reviewed journal. The lab’s research also received mention in articles in APS Viewpoint, Physics Today, Science News, and Nature News.

The article, “Demonstration of Long-Lived High-Power Optical Waveguides in Air” details the work of Nihal Jhajj, Eric Rosenthal, Reuven Birnbaum, Dr. Jared Wahlstrand, and Prof. Milchberg. Their research involves the channeling of a laser beam through gas. Milchberg and his team created a way to use femtosecond filaments to create a virtual fiber-optic, allowing for the laser to travel through the air at a higher power and for a longer range than previously demonstrated.

The article outlines the method of the team in which they “arranged a square-shaped bundle of four intense filaments of light that leave behind a trail of hot gas. The four hot air columns expand and create a central zone of higher-density air that serves as a waveguide for subsequent pulses of light." The result of this waveguide allowed for a 100-mj light pulse to be channeled through 70 cm of air.

With the laser transmitting at a higher average power than ever thought possible, the lab’s method has valuable implications for the future of the science community. In APS Viewpoint, Arnaud Couairon and Stelios Tzortzakis indicate this saying that the method “could be used to direct laser energy to remote locations, providing a new way to nudge space debris out of Earth’s orbit.” The authors also cited its potential applications with the possibility of “remote detection of radioactive or hazardous materials and atmospheric laser communications” and the “implementation of filament-based lightning protection.” 

Read the full article on Physical Review X’s website.

Published May 23, 2014