Solar Pumped Lasers and Their ApplicationsSince 1980, NASA has been pursuing high power solar lasers as part of the space power beaming program. Materials in liquid, solid, and gas phases have been evaluated against the requirements for solar pumping. Two basic characteristics of solar insolation, namely its diffuse irradiance and 5800 K blackbody-like spectrum, impose rather stringent requirements for laser excitation. However, meeting these requirements is not insurmountable as solar thermal energy technology has progressed today, and taking advantage of solar pumping lasers is becoming increasingly attractive. The high density photons of concentrated solar energy have been used for mainly electric power generation and thermal processing of materials by the DOE Solar Thermal Technologies Program. However, the photons can interact with materials through many other direct kinetic paths, and applications of the concentrated photons could be extended to processes requiring photolysis, photosynthesis, and photoexcitation. The use of solar pumped lasers on Earth seems constrained by economics and sociopolitics. Therefore, prospective applications may be limited to those that require use of quantum effects and coherency of the laser in order to generate extremely high value products and services when conventional and inexpensive means are ineffective or impossible. The new applications already proposed for concentrated solar photons, such as destruction of hazardous waste, production of renewable fuel, production of fertilizer, and air/water pollution controls, may benefit from the use of inexpensive solar pumped laser matched with the photochemical kinetics of these processes.
Lee, Ja H. (NASA Langley Research Center Hampton, VA, United States)
September 6, 2013
January 1, 1991
Publication: NAS-NRC, Potential Applications of Concentrated Solar Energy