Feeds

Boffins develop liquid crystal solid-state raygun turret

Points laser beam with no need to shift laser

New hybrid storage solutions

OK, so you've done it. You've finally built a high-energy laser which can put out a megawatt-range beam, and it doesn't emit toxic corrosive exhaust or melt itself in operation or weigh a prohibitive amount. Now to revolutionise warfare, right?

Well, just hold on there my crazy boffin friend: it's no good trying to hold the world to ransom just yet. If you want to employ your brilliant new raygun in the most popular applications – shooting down fast-moving cannon shells or nuclear missiles in mid-air, for instance – you will need to be able to point the beam easily and quickly. Simply pointing the whole laser is unlikely to be practical: and directing a superpowered raygun beam using conventional optics such as mirrors or lenses is likely to be troublesome as even the tiniest inefficiencies could divert enough energy to make your apparatus explode.

Enter Jihwan Kim and Michael Escuti, engineering brainboxes at North Carolina State University in the USA. They say they've hit upon a means of pointing laser beams using a stack of "polarisation gratings" – liquid-crystal patterns on glass plates. These can direct even a powerful war-grade ray without getting melted themselves, apparently.

"Because each individual grating is very good at redirecting light in the desired directions with almost no absorption, the stack of gratings do not significantly weaken the laser power," says Escuti.

The doc and his colleagues write:

The device shows high optical throughput (78% −83%) that can be substantially improved by optimizing substrates and electrode materials.

The gratings are solid-state and made using normal liquid-crystal industrial methods, too, so they should be reliable, very quick-acting and low cost – just the thing for holding a powerful beam on a speeding nuclear missile (or more realistically a falling Katyusha rocket; or more realistically still holding a less powerful ray on a moving communications reception apparatus).

Though it would seem likely that the liquid-crystal beam pointer kit will actually see its first applications in such fields as sensors and comms rather than blaster cannons, it does seem promising for weapons also. The US Navy's plans for a future fleet of raygun dreadnoughts may have moved a small step further forward: and so perhaps has the glorious day of the shark-portable, hat-mounted directed energy weapon.

Kim, Escuti and their colleagues' paper Wide-angle, nonmechanical beam steering with high-throughput utilizing polarization gratings is to be published in the journal Applied Optics. Until then you can read it in PDF (12 pages/1.1MB) here. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Chelyabinsk-sized SURPRISE asteroid to skim Earth, satnav birds
Space rock appears out of nowhere, buzzes planet on Sunday
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
'Duck face' selfie in SPAAAACE: Rosetta's snap with bird comet
Probe prepares to make first landing on fast-moving rock
Archaeologists and robots on hunt for more Antikythera pieces
How much of the world's oldest computer can they find?
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.