Research and development contracts, Government

Interviewed by
Robert W. Seidel
Interview date
University of Illinois, Chicago Circle

Boyer, former head of the laser division at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, discusses the origins of the Los Alamos Laser Program, the influence of Air Force Weapons Laboratory (AFWL) High-energy Laser Program on his own program, the connection with his earlier nuclear rocket propulsion studies; Abraham Hertzberg’s proposal of the gas-dynamic laser concept and his visit to Los Alamos to discuss laser function. Los Alamos’s growing interest in laser fusion in the 1960s, their awareness of Ray Kidder’s work at Livermore, the three-pronged approach to laser fusion taken at Los Alamos, the development of interest in chemical lasers with AFWL support; in glass lasers; carbon dioxide laser fusion work; development of the electron-beam CO2 laser and patent dispute with AVCO; the Division of Military Application interest in isotope separation and weapons simulation; comparison with the Livermore program; molecular isotope separation program at Los Alamos vs. Livermore and Exxon Nuclear exploration of the atomic vapor process; influence of Basov & Aleksandr Prokhorov’s work and others on Boyer’s group; technical problems of compressing thermonuclear fuel; electron attachment instability; problem of the wavelength effect; computer codes and modeling; laser fusion target design; laser system designs; frequency conversion work for isotope separation; large CO2 lasers at Los Alamos; self-oscillation and target reflection problems in them; resonator optics of large CO2 laser; Helios Design; Antares design; Boyer’s High Energy Laser Review Group participation and the contrast between Dept. of Defense and Dept. of Energy research and development policy.