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A solar-pumped laser (or solar-powered laser) is a laser that shares the same optical properties as conventional lasers such as emitting a beam consisting of coherent electromagnetic radiation which can reach high power, but which uses solar radiation for pumping the lasing medium. This type of laser is unique from other types in that it does not require any artificial energy source.
- 1 Lasing media
- 2 Applications
- 2.1 Nanopowders
- 2.2 Hydrogen production
- 2.3 Potential spacecraft applications
- 2.3.1 Space propulsion
- 2.3.2 Solar power satellite
- 3 Current research
- 4 See also
- 5 References
The two most studied lasing media for solar-pumped lasers have been iodine, with a laser wavelength of 1.31 micrometers, and NdCrYAG, which lases at 1.06 micrometers wavelength. Solar-pumped semiconductor lasers have also been proposed by Landis and others.
Solar-pumped lasers are not used commercially because the low cost of electricity in most locations means that other more efficient types of lasers that run on electrical power can be more economically used. Solar pumped lasers might become useful in off-grid locations.
Very fine grained dispersed powders can be produced by the use of laser synthesis technology.
A leader in this field is Shigeaki Uchida and his team in Japan (Tokyo/Osaka). Their design uses Fresnel lenses and a solar-pumped NdCrYAG laser to drive a magnesium-based cycle, which produces hydrogen gas as its product.
Potential spacecraft applications
Since there is no ‘grid’ power in space, most spacecraft today use solar power sources, mostly photovoltaic solar cells. Powering lasers requires high levels of power, so the inefficiency of PV solar cells (usually less than 27% efficiency) motivates interest in solar pumping of lasers. Other potential benefits of solar-pumped lasers might be reduced weight and reduced number of components, affording higher reliability (reduced number of failure modes) versus an electrically pumped laser powered from PV cells. They can also be used for deep space communications, sensors for conditions on earth, detecting and tracking objects in space, as well as power transmission.
There have been proposals to use solar-pumped lasers for spacecraft beam-powered propulsion.
Solar power satellite
There have been proposals to use solar-pumped lasers for space-based solar power.
A proposal to use the solar furnace of Uzbekistan to power a solar-pumped Nd:YAG laser would have been the world’s largest system of its kind, at up to 1MW of solar input power. However, current research efforts are focused on combining the output from several smaller concentrators, an approach that is much more achievable.
- De Young et al. Preliminary Design and Cost of a 1-Megawatt Solar-Pumped Iodide Laser Space-to-Space Transmission Station, NASA Technical Memorandum, 1987 (Original version, WebCite archive), Retrieved 2011-06-23
- A. Landis, “New Approaches for a Solar-Pumped GaAs Laser,” Optics Communications, 92, pp 261-265 (1992). (Abstract)
- M. Tsidulko, “Semiconductor Laser Pumped by Solar Radiation,” Soviet Journal of Quantum Electronics 22 (5), pp. 463-466 (1992).
- D. Payziyeva; S. A. Bakhramov; A. K. Kasimov. “Transformation of concentrated sunlight into laser radiation on small parabolic concentrators”. Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy. Scientific and Production Association “Akadempribor”, Tashkent 100125, Uzbekistan: American Institute of Physics. 3 (5).
- “Can Lasers Help Decrease Our Dependence on Fossil Fuels?”. Archived from the original on 2016-05-15. Retrieved 2009-05-05.
- “Solar light pumped laser and cooling method of solar light pumped laser, USPTO Application #: 20080225912”. Archived from the original on 2012-02-17. Retrieved 2009-05-05.
- Geoffrey A. Landis, “Prospects for Solar Pumped Semiconductor Lasers,” Paper SPIE 2121-09, Laser Power Beaming, SPIE Proceedings Volume 2121, pp. 58-65, January 27–28, 1994 (web version access date 2009-11-10)
- Bakhramov, S.A.; Payziyev, Sh.D.; Klychev, Sh.I.; Kasimov, A.K.; Abdurakhmanov, A.A. (2005). “Laser on the big solar concentrator”. Proceedings of CAOL 2005. Second International Conference on Advanced Optoelectronics and Lasers, 2005. 1. pp. 109–111. doi:10.1109/CAOL.2005.1553831. ISBN 0-7803-9130-6.
- “Parabolic mirrors concentrate sunlight to power lasers”. Retrieved 2019-08-13.
- Payziyev, Sh. D.; Bakhramov, S. A.; Kasimov, A. K. (2011). “Transformation of concentrated sunlight into laser radiation on small parabolic concentrators”. Journal of Renewable and Sustainable Energy. 3 (5): 053102. doi:10.1063/1.3643267.
- Duncan Graham-Rowe (September 19, 2007). “Solar-Powered Laser”. MIT Technology Review.
- Applied Physics Letters (2007), cited in 
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1. sciencedirect. com/science/article/abs/pii/S0030399218301440