The Particle Lazer Cannon is the primary direct energy weapons system utilized by most of the Imperial Defense fleet after the year 1985. The cannon was used as a primary energy barrage weapon during the 1st Earth/Cylon War.
Basic System Mechanics Edit
The Cannon operates on mainly 3 basic core components which are
- Lazer Generator
- Lazer Pump
- Particle or Plasma Accelerator
- Optical Cavity Resonator located in the cannons elongated Neo-Titanium Barrel which without this vital component the beam itself would not exist.
1st is the Laser Generator which its main purpose is to hold the lazers primary particle energy charge which is kept in a semi fluidic Electro-Plasma state until it is ready to be fully converted/accelerated into its full energy state. 2nd are the 2 co-acting systems of the Lazer Pump and Accelerator as the primed electro-plasma is "Pumped" or rapid pulsed out of the generator housing and super accelerated into a ultra heated light based energy. The 3rd and final property is The optical cavity, a type of cavity resonator, contains a coherent beam of light between reflective surfaces so that the light passes through the gain medium more than once before it is emitted from the output aperture or lost to diffraction or absorption.
As light circulates through the cavity, passing through the gain medium, if the gain (amplification) in the medium is stronger than the resonator losses, the power of the circulating light can rise exponentially. But each stimulated emission event returns a particle from its excited state to the ground state, reducing the capacity of the gain medium for further amplification. When this effect becomes strong, the gain is said to be saturated. The balance of pump power against gain saturation and cavity losses produces an equilibrium value of the laser power inside the cavity; this equilibrium determines the operating point of the laser. If the chosen pump power is too small, the gain is not sufficient to overcome the resonator losses, and the laser will emit only very small light powers. The minimum pump power needed to begin laser action is called the lasing threshold. The gain medium will amplify any photons passing through it, regardless of direction; but only the photons aligned with the cavity manage to pass more than once through the medium and so have significant amplification.
The beam in the cavity and the output beam of the laser, if they occur in free space rather than waveguides (as in an optical fiber laser), are, at best, low order Gaussian Beams. However this is rarely the case with powerful lasers. If the beam is not a low-order Gaussian shape, the transverse modes of the beam can be described as a superposition of Hermite-Gaussian or Laguerre-Gaussian beams (for stable-cavity lasers).
Unstable laser resonators on the other hand, have been shown to produce fractal shaped beams. The beam may be highly collimated, that is being parallel without beam divergence or Light/Particle/Energy dispersion as it is commonly known. However, a perfectly collimated beam cannot be created, due to diffraction.
Although the laser phenomenon was discovered with the help of quantum physics, it is not essentially more quantum mechanical than other light sources. The operation of a free electron laser can be explained without reference to quantum mechanics.
Modes of operation Edit
The output of a laser may be a continuous constant-amplitude output (known as CW or continuous wave); or pulsed, by using the techniques of Q-switching, mode-locking, or gain-switching. In pulsed operation, much higher peak powers can be achieved.
Some types of lasers, such as dye lasers and vibronic solid-state lasers can produce light over a broad range of wavelengths; this property makes them suitable for generating extremely short pulses of light, on the order of a few femtoseconds (10-15 s).
Continuous wave operation Edit
In the continuous wave (CW) mode of operation, the output of a laser is relatively constant with respect to time. The population inversion required for lasing is continually maintained by a steady pump source.
Pulsed operation Edit
In the pulsed mode of operation, the output of a laser varies with respect to time, typically taking the form of alternating 'on' and 'off' periods. In many applications one aims to deposit as much energy as possible at a given place in as short time as possible. In laser ablation for example, a small volume of material at the surface of a work piece might evaporate if it gets the energy required to heat it up far enough in very short time. If, however, the same energy is spread over a longer time, the heat may have time to disperse into the bulk of the piece, and less material evaporates. There are a number of methods to achieve this.
- Main article: Q-switching
In a Q-switched laser, the population inversion (usually produced in the same way as CW operation) is allowed to build up by making the cavity conditions (the 'Q') unfavorable for lasing. Then, when the pump energy stored in the laser medium is at the desired level, the 'Q' is adjusted (electro- or acousto-optically) to favorable conditions, releasing the pulse. This results in high peak powers as the average power of the laser (were it running in CW mode) is packed into a shorter time frame.
- Main article: Modelocking
A modelocked laser emits extremely short pulses on the order of tens of picoseconds down to less than 10 femtoseconds. These pulses are typically separated by the time that a pulse takes to complete one round trip in the resonator cavity. Due to the Fourier limit (also known as energy-time uncertainty), a pulse of such short temporal length has a spectrum which contains a wide range of wavelengths. Because of this, the laser medium must have a broad enough gain profile to amplify them all. An example of a suitable material is titanium-doped, artificially grown sapphire (Ti:sapphire).
The modelocked laser is a most versatile tool for researching processes happening at extremely fast time scales also known as femtosecond physics, femtosecond chemistry and ultrafast science, for maximizing the effect of nonlinearity in optical materials (e.g. in second-harmonic generation, parametric down-conversion, optical parametric oscillators and the like), and in ablation applications. Again, because of the short timescales involved, these lasers can achieve extremely high powers.
Another method of achieving pulsed laser operation is to pump the laser material with a source that is itself pulsed, either through electronic charging in the case of flashlamps, or another laser which is already pulsed. Pulsed pumping was historically used with dye lasers where the inverted population lifetime of a dye molecule was so short that a high energy, fast pump was needed. The way to overcome this problem was to charge up large capacitors which are then switched to discharge through flashlamps, producing a broad spectrum pump flash. Pulsed pumping is also required for lasers which disrupt the gain medium so much during the laser process that lasing has to cease for a short period. These lasers, such as the excimer laser and the copper vapor laser, can never be operated in CW mode.