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N.M. Tech Gets Laser From Los Alamos Lab

August 4, 2006

SOCORRO, N.M. (AP) _ New Mexico Tech has received a $4.5 million laser that will primarily be used to cut and machine explosives.

The laser was designed and built by scientists and engineers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and comes via Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The specialized laser will allow Tech’s Energetic Materials Research and Testing Center to cut and form materials with powerful, ultra-short pulses of energy lasting only a few hundred femto-seconds.

A femto-second is one-quadrillionth of a second, which is one-millionth of one-billionth of a second.

``The laser doesn’t generate heat because the pulse is so incredibly fast,″ said Christa Hockensmith, the head of the research center’s chemistry research and development laboratory.

Hockensmith said both students and faculty will be able to use the laser, which is housed in two rooms.

Researchers at Sandia Laboratories in Albuquerque and Los Alamos lab also have expressed interest in using the laser for experiments, she said.

Research using the laser could result in better ways to detect explosive devices at airports, borders and ports, Tech said in a news release.

Hockensmith said that advances that come from using the laser also would allow new classes of explosives to be developed ``that will be more powerful, safer to handle and more environmentally benign.″

The National Nuclear Security Administration, a semiautonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy, made arrangements for the laser to be housed at New Mexico Tech.

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