Lasers: The next fifty years

Franz Kärtner, Markus Pollnau, Ken-ichi Ueda, Henry van Driel

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    This year marks the 50th anniversary of the laser — the first coherent radiation source in the optical domain. This anniversary of this historic development is being celebrated this year through “Laserfest‿ in which the Optical Society is a major partner. The laser enabled a straightforward extension of the scientific methods and technologies pioneered at microwave wavelengths, in the preceding century, to the optical domain and opened up a myriad of fundamental studies and new applications based on the now shorter, by four to six orders of magnitude, available wavelengths. This new radiation source continues to impact our daily lives in unprecedented ways; most notably, it enabled our modern informationbased society by providing the physical carrier of information for the global optical communications infrastructure. Even after fifty years, there is no indication that either the development of the laser or its applications are slowing down. Rather, the opposite is true. The enormous bandwidth available at infrared and optical frequencies enables ultrahigh peak intensities and time resolution and thereby accesses new dynamics in all forms of matter that can now be traced, investigated, and manipulated to the benefit of mankind. Earlier this year, there was a focus issue of Applied Optics (Vol. 49, issue 25) devoted to the impact that lasers have had on our lives and entitled “Lasers: The First Fifty Years.‿ This companion focus issue explores future developments of laser technology. It does not attempt to cover the field of laser science and applications exhaustively, since it would probably require a whole volume of JOSA B to do justice to this growing field. It rather highlights some of the currently hot topics across laser physics written by pioneers in these fields with an emphasis on current trends and future developments. The authors anticipate the next important steps in the performance scaling of solid-state (Kränkel, Petermann, Huber), fiber (Richardson, Nilsson, Clarkson), and green semiconductor lasers (Ohta, DenBaars, Nakamura); predict the future potential of tiny photonic crystal (Noda) and subwavelength (Hill) sources on microchips; and discuss the wavefront engineering for mid-infrared and terahertz quantum cascade lasers (Yu, Capasso), status and trends in attosecond optics (Chang, Corkum), femtosecond laser frequency combs (Diddams), and X-ray free-electron lasers (Galayda, Arthur, Ratner, White). These are just a few of the hot topics that, in the coming decades, will take the laser and its applications to new horizons. We are confident that the next fifty years of the laser will further accelerate one of the most breathtaking success stories in science.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)LF1
    Number of pages1
    JournalJournal of the Optical Society of America. B: Optical physics
    Issue number11
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2010


    • IOMS-APD: Active Photonic Devices
    • IR-73928
    • METIS-276123
    • EWI-18647


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