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A Review of Nuclear Pumped Lasers and Applications (Asteroid Deflection)

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2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


Indianapolis, Indiana

Publication Date

June 15, 2014

Start Date

June 15, 2014

End Date

June 18, 2014



Conference Session

Nuclear and Radiological Division Technical Session 2

Tagged Division

Nuclear and Radiological

Page Count


Page Numbers

24.99.1 - 24.99.27

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Paper Authors


Mark A. Prelas University of Missouri, Columbia

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Professor Mark Prelas received his BS from Colorado State University, MS and PhD from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is a Professor of Nuclear Engineering and Director of Research for the Nuclear Science and Engineering institute at the University of Missouri-Columbia. His many honors include the Presidential Young Investigator Award in 1984, a Fulbright Fellow 1992, ASEE Centenial Certificate 1993, a William C. Foster Fellow (in Bureau of Arms Control US Dept. of State) 1999-2000, the Frederick Joliot-Curie Medal in 2007, the ASEE Glenn Murphy Award 2009, and the TeXTY award in 2012. He is a fellow of the American Nuclear Society. He has worked in the field of nuclear pumped lasers since his days as a graduate student.

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Matthew L. Watermann NSEI - University of Missouri

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Denis Alexander Wisniewski


Janese Annetta Neher Nuclear Science and Engineering Institute-University of Missouri Columbia

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Janese A. Neher is a Professional Engineer licensed in the State of Missouri, a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Missouri Bar approved Mediator. She has worked in the nuclear industry for over 20 years, and in the Environmental Engineering area for the State of Missouri and at the Missouri Public Service Commission.

She has been recognized nationally for her leadership abilities receiving the coveted Patricia Byrant Leadership Award from the Women in Nuclear, the Region IV Leadership Award, the University of Missouri Chancellor Award and the Ameren Diversity Awards. Janese recently chaired the first WINNERS Contest for K-12 to Save the Earth from the Giant Asteroid Contest.

Janese received degrees in History, Civil Engineering, and Mathematics, a Masters in Education and Environmental Engineering and a PhD in Nuclear Engineering.

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Charles Lyndell Weaver III University of Missouri - Columbia

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A Review of Nuclear-Pumped LasersMark A. Prelas and Matthew WatermannNuclear Science and Engineering Institute, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO, 573-882-9691Nuclear-Pumped Laser (NPL) technology was a part of the strategic defense initiative (SDI)program in the 1980’s but has since faded from the United States research agenda. NPLs stillremain an active part of the research agenda in other countries. For example, Russia and othercountries in the Former Soviet Union have maintained their NPL research programs and Chinahas a strong interest in NPL research. The reason for this broad interest in the technology is thata NPL can scale to high power/energy levels (potentially up to 100 MW continuous wave beampower). Military applications have dominated the research agenda. However, there aresignificant humanitarian applications for high power/energy lasers. For example a high powercontinuous wave NPL would have the capability to deflect asteroids or comets. Other importantapplications are in space propulsion, power transmission, and asteroid mining.Despite the promise, there are significant problems in NPL development. High power/highenergy gas lasers by their nature require high pumping power densities. That is why many of themost powerful gas lasers are pulsed. NPLs do not generate high power densities, but do generategood energy densities. This limits the type of high power/high energy gas lasers systems that canbe driven by NPL technologies. Other issues involve the large size and scale of NPLs using gaslaser technology as well as the design of reactor cores dedicated to the production of laser beams.Several promising approaches were developed including the development of nuclear-drivenflashlamps which can increase the effective pumping power density through photon focusing andthus open up new possibilities for both gaseous and solid-state high power/high energy lasersystems.

Prelas, M. A., & Watermann, M. L., & Wisniewski, D. A., & Neher, J. A., & Weaver, C. L. (2014, June), A Review of Nuclear Pumped Lasers and Applications (Asteroid Deflection) Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana.

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