Thursday, October 05, 2006

Boeing, USAF conduct first-ever laser test using recycled fuel

A U.S. Air Force-Boeing team has successfully demonstrated the world’s first laser powered by recycled fuel. This technology could be used with a future Advanced Tactical Laser aircraft, depicted here.

A U.S. Air Force and Boeing team has successfully demonstrated the world’s first laser powered by recycled fuel.

During an Aug. 24 test at the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Davis Advanced Laser Facility in Albuquerque, N.M., a chemical laser was supplied with its two main fuels -- basic hydrogen peroxide and chlorine, which were regenerated from waste products produced during prior laser operations. Testers fired the laser at high power, proving its performance.

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 and removing used fuel for disposal. With the test’s successful conclusion, the laser is ready for affordable, low-risk weapons applications that meet warfighter needs.

"This demonstration is a technological breakthrough because it shows that lasers can operate effectively and reliably on recycled fuel," said Pat Shanahan, vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems. "Fuel regeneration will eliminate the need to periodically replace fuel on the battlefield, making it easier for the warfighter to use and maintain laser weapons."

The regenerated fuels were produced in miniaturized electrochemical reactors that were specially designed to collect the waste products of laser operations and convert them to fresh fuel. This conversion process is proprietary technology of The Boeing Company.

This technology could be used with follow-on programs to the Advanced Tactical Laser (ATL), which a Boeing-led industry team is developing for the Department of Defense through an Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD), or other next-generation directed energy tactical weapons. ATL ACTD, which will consist of a chemical laser installed in a C-130 aircraft, is designed to destroy, damage or disable ground targets with little to no collateral damage.

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