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08/18/94

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Free Electron Laser technologists and users meet Aug. 22 - 29

STANFORD -- Between 200 and 300 scientists from around the world who are involved in developing and using free electron lasers - a relatively new type of tunable laser that is opening up new areas in the infrared and ultraviolet regions of the spectrum - will gather at Stanford.

The international meeting, being held Aug. 22 to 29, will include discussions of advanced FEL designs. For the first time, the meeting also will include a workshop - taking place Aug. 27 and 28 - for scientists who are utilizing these machines for a variety of purposes, ranging from basic research in electronic materials, to its use in surgical operations, to such potential commercial applications as producing improved plastic wrap for food storage and recharging satellite batteries on-the-fly.

Highlights of the meeting:

  • Donald Levy of the University of Chicago will release a National Academy of Sciences report that recommends funding levels and future directions for Free Electron Laser development (Friday, Aug. 26).
  • Dodge Warren of Los Alamos National Laboratory will trace the political history of FEL development; William Colson of the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey will summarize the current status of FELs in the United States (Monday, Aug. 22).
  • Several speakers - Kazuo Imaski, Osaka University; Dinh C. Nguyen, Los Alamos National Laboratory; Gerry Ramian, University of California- Santa Barbara; Cha-Mei Tang, Naval Research Laboratory - will discuss progress in shrinking FELs (currently building-sized) to truckable or even desktop size (Monday, Aug. 22).
  • Michael J. Kelley of DuPont will cover potential industrial applications, including the FELs use to change the surface chemistry of plastic wrap in a way that gives it antimicrobial properties that could slow the rate of food spoilage (Monday, Aug. 29).
  • Potential biomedical applications for this new light source will be addressed: K. David Staub of Duke University will talk on experimental surgery with an FEL beam, and Glenn Edwards of Vanderbilt University will report on its use for tissue ablation (Sunday, Aug. 28). In addition:

Michael D. Fayer of Stanford will report on the use of femtosecond FEL pulses - each pulse ten billion times faster than a fast camera - to study the action of myoglobin, the protein in muscle cells that stores small gas-phase molecules such as oxygen and carbon dioxide. Using the FEL his research group has been able to look directly at the motions of a molecule of CO2 when it's attached at the active site of the protein (Sunday, Aug. 28).

  • Uses of the FEL to study and improve advanced electronic devices also will be discussed by a number of scientists:

Philippe Fauchet of Rochester University will discuss work using picosecond infrared pulses from an FEL to develop semiconductor quantum wells and other devices to manipulate light in the 3-5 micron range. Light at these wavelengths can propagate through the atmosphere with minimal distortion and so is of great interest for high-speed satellite communications, among other potential military and civilian applications (Monday, Aug. 29).

Researchers from James Harris' lab at Stanford will report on use of the FEL to study the nonlinear optical characteristics of quantum wells. Such measurements have helped his group produce quantum-well devices that shift the wavelength of conventional laser light into the mid- and far-infrared portion of the spectrum. This may make it possible to make remote measurements of a number of biologically important molecules for medical and environmental applications. Development makes possible devices that measure glucose levels in diabetics by shining laser light through an ear lobe or that can remotely measure the concentrations of a number of air pollutants (poster session, Sunday Aug. 28).

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