Laser scientist Eric Honea and San Jose State University physics professor, Gareth Williams, will explore how lasers operate and how they are used in common devices such as CD players and telecommunications equipment. This lecture incorporates several demonstrations of equipment to illustrate the key points of their talk.

Rick Freeman, chair of the UC Davis Department of Applied Sciences, will give a brief presentation on new opportunities to earn an optics engineering degree at the UC Davis, Livermore campus.

Today you will learn

  • Some properties of light beams:
  • The difference between a laser and a flashlight
  • Different colors of light have different wavelengths
  • Laser beams have a small but measurable divergence and focus to a finite diameter
  • How does a laser work?
  • How energy can be temporarily stored in a laser medium (the population inversion)
  • The difference between spontaneous and stimulated emission
  • How to use mirrors to provide "feedback"
  • How does a CD or DVD player work?
  • One method to increase the amount of information that can be put on a CD or DVD.
  • How to keep a light beam squeezed down to a small diameter
  • Refraction and total internal reflection of light
  • How does an optical fiber work?
  • How can we send information over optical fibers?
  • What is the best wavelength to send information over silica fiber?
  • How fast can a laser beam be turned on and off with state-of-the-art technology?
  • How will the next generation of networks squeeze even more information over each fiber?

Speaker Bios

Dr. Eric Honea

Dr. Eric Honea has a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of California, Los Angeles and B.S. degrees in Physics and Mathematics from the University of California, Irvine. Before coming to LLNL, he was a postdoctoral member of the technical staff at AT&T Bell Laboratories. Since 1993 he has been in the Laser Program at LLNL, working to develop state-of-the-art lasers and components for applications in inertial confinement fusion, aerospace, medicine, materials processing and communications.

Dr. Gareth Williams

Dr. Gareth Williams is a Professor of Physics at San Jose Statue University. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Wales in 1961 and subsequently held the post of Scientific Officer at the Royal Aircraft Establishment and was a contractor to NASA with the Apollo project. Dr. Williams developed the "lasers in the classroom" program in 1998, and founded Laser LightLab Inc., a company that provides affordable optics equipment for classroom use.

Dr.Richard Freeman

Dr. Richard Freeman is the Chairman Department of Applied Sciences, UC Davis. He has a 1967 BS, Physics from the University of Washington, a Ph.D,Physics from Harvard University. He specializes in lasers and their applications.