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The first demonstration of laser action in ruby was made in 1960 by T. H. Maiman of Hughes Research Laboratories, USA. Many laboratories worldwide began the search for lasers using different materials, operating at different wavelengths. In the UK, academia, industry and the central laboratories took up the challenge from the earliest days to develop these systems for a broad range of applications. This historical review looks at the contribution the UK has made to the advancement of the technology, the development of systems and components and their exploitation over the last 60 years.
The Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) is tasked with supporting Continuous At Sea Deterrence (CASD) by certifying the performance and safety of the national deterrent in the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) era. This means that recourse to further underground testing is not possible, and certification must be achieved by supplementing the historical data with the use of computer calculation. In order to facilitate this, AWE operates some of the largest supercomputers in the UK. To validate the computer codes, and indeed the designers who are using them, it is necessary to carry out further experiments in the right regimes. An excellent way to meet many of the requirements for material property data and to provide confidence in the validity of the algorithms is through experiments carried out on high power laser facilities.
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