OPN May 2008

Cover Story

The History of the X-ray Laser

Jeff Hecht

The long and curious history of the X-ray laser began in an effort to expand the frontier of knowledge and culminated in one of the wildest schemes ever pursued by the United States government—the “Star Wars” missile defense initiative... more>>


Directly Pumped Silicon Lasers

Jeffrey M. Shainline and Jimmy Xu

Over the past two decades, researchers have tried mightily to enhance silicon’s ability to emit light. Yet electrically pumped silicon lasers remain tantalizingly out of reach. These authors describe how the approaches that have been tried so far might be successfully combined. more>>

Electrically Pumped Photonic Crystal Nanolasers

Hong-Gyu Park, Min-Kyo Seo, Se-Heon Kim and Yong-Hee Lee

For years, the quantum optics community has been testing the limits on laser size: How small can you go? Thanks to advances in semiconductor crystal growth and fabrication techniques, the answer is now wavelength-scale. more>>

Fiber Lasers and Their Coherent Beam Combination

Qihong Lou, Jun Zhou, Bing He and Hongming Zhao

With high efficiency and exceptional beam quality, fiber lasers hold great promise. The 1-µm wavelength makes it possible for them to replace both diode- and lamp-pumped Nd:YAG lasers in the micromachining, automotive and biomedical markets. more>>


Micro-harp Resonates to Sound Out Gases

Yvonne Carts-Powell

Researchers at the Naval Research Laboratory have made a “micro-harp” that operates on a scale about a thousand times smaller than the normal instrument, with “strings” that are roughly 200 µm in length. more>>

Imaging Collagen Fibers

Yvonne Carts-Powell

A group of researchers has used intense X-rays to achieve unprecedented resolution of the structure of the protein collagen. more>>

Did You Know?

Yvonne Carts-Powell

A quantum stroboscope. more>>



Problem-Based Learning

Judith Donnelly

A new educational project encourages students to learn optics by tackling real-world technical and engineering challenges. more>>

Optical Engineering

Applying Silicon Carbide to Optics

David A. Bath and Eric A. Ness

Silicon carbide (SiC) is a promising optical material that offers several performance advantages over traditional optics. Due to its unique physical and thermal properties, it can be used for a wide range of applications—from large space-based telescope systems to small galvo mirrors. more>>

Policy Matters

Science and Policy: Not Mutually Exclusive

Peter Delfyett

As scientists work in labs across the United States, policymakers pass laws, rules and regulations in the chambers of the U.S. Capitol. For many people, these two worlds seem completely separate. The truth is, science and policy are not mutually exclusive; in fact, they are heavily dependent on each other. more>>

The History of OSA

Honorary Members of the 1950s

John N. Howard

From its beginnings in 1916, the Optical Society has dedicated a special category of membership to individuals who have made unique, unparalleled contributions to the field of optics. This column highlights the careers of four optical pioneers who became honorary members during the 1950s: Frits Zernike (1954), Charles Edward Kenneth Mees (1957), Thomas Smith (1957) and William F. Meggers (1958). more>>


Whose Law of Refraction?

Gorden Videen

The law of refraction is one of the most fundamental and important principles in optical science. After years of conflict over who discovered it first—Snel, Hariot or Descartes—some Arab scholars have now brought the 10th-century scientist Ibn Sahl into the fray. Here, Gorden Videen ponders the question: Can’t we all just get along? more>>

Conversations in Optics

OPN Talks with David Reitze

Angela Stark

Our conversation with David Reitze, LIGO expert and CLEO/QELS plenary speaker. more>>

OPN Talks with Albert Polman

Colleen Morrison

Our conversation with Albert Polman, nanophotonics expert and CLEO/QELS plenary speaker. more>>