2014 Issue 2 Annual Technical Achievement Awards Presented at PSI

Dec 10, 2014

In this newsletter we present our 2014 Achievement Awards recognizing significant accomplishments by our staff this past year. These awards benefit from both our extensive laboratory facilities and our company’s unique interactive technical review process. With hundreds of ongoing projects, the selection process is always difficult, and these awards recognize only a small fraction of the many significant accomplishments by our talented staff. This year the awards recognize new laser physics and engineering and novel energetic materials.

B. David Green, President and CEO, recently presented the 2014 PSI annual Technical Achievement Awards in recognition of some of the company’s most notable technical accomplishments during the past year. These awards recognize the dedicated efforts of many.

Optically Pumped, cw Argon Laser

Kristin Galbally-Kinney, Principal Scientist and Dr. W. Terry Rawlins, Senior Principal Research Scientist/Engineer were presented with Technical Achievement Awards for their development and demonstration of the world’s first optically pumped, cw argon laser.


Kristin and Terry led a team of researchers in a systematic and focused effort to adapt a novel micro-discharge technology to a specially designed flowing gas laser module. Dr. Steven Davis, Chief Scientist, also played a significant role with cavity and experiment design. Using a suite of sensitive diagnostics, they produced the first evidence of strong optical amplification and subsequently demonstrated continuous wave laser output.

The initial measurements clearly demonstrated excellent beam quality, 50% optical efficiency, and steady output for over 30 minutes. This demonstration is a clear breakthrough in the fields of plasma and laser physics. Prior evidence in the literature indicated that such a cw laser was not possible.

This demonstration is very significant for the future of high energy lasers. The only gas phase laser currently being significantly funded for HEL applications is the diode-pumped alkali laser (DPAL). The microplasma laser demonstrated by Kristin and Terry has all the positive attributes of DPAL, but eliminates the need for the caustic chemistry of alkali atoms that poses significant challenges for scaling DPAL to high power levels.

We have filed a patent application and these results have led to a Photonics West conference presentation and a successful proposal for a Phase II STTR enhancement. We plan to seek funding to continue the development of this promising laser system.

Micro-LIBS Laser

Dr. Bhabana Pati, Principal Research Scientist and Kenneth Stebbins, Senior Project Specialist, from PSI’s subsidiary, Q-Peak, Inc., were presented with technical achievement awards in recognition of their advanced physics and engineering design of the micro-LIBS laser.


Bhabana and Ken have created a remarkably compact passively Q-switched, diode-pumped Yttrium Lithium Fluoride (YLF) resonator with intra-cavity Second Harmonic Generation that produces green (532 nm) output with a power of 1 millijoule in a 6 nanosecond pulse. Bhabana has been invited to participate in planning for the use of this laser as the source for a future NASA planetary rover Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS) system exploration to characterize materials on the surface of Mars (or elsewhere). The design can be adapted to efficiently generate 1.54 microns as an eye-safe wavelength with a short pulse-length to enable rangefinder applications. The integration level of the pump head (pump diodes, laser crystal, channel and holder with outstanding thermal management and ease of assembly) is clever, unique, and responsible for a “snap-fit” assembly and robust performance. Their design has successfully undergone thermal and vibration testing with positive results and has demonstrated performance for several hours of operation. We continue to fund many new applications for this novel laser system.

Insensitive Munitions Compliant Case

Dr. Allan Dokhan, Group Leader, Munitions and Missile Systems; Justin Sabourin, Principal Scientist; and Laurel Vernarelli, Senior Scientist/Engineer received Technical Achievement Awards for the development and demonstration of an insensitive munitions compliant case.

This team has successfully developed a composite case construction, employing a unique reactive additive formulation that provides IM-compliant properties to composite cases subject to slow cook-off conditions and energetic fragment impact. The technology has been validated through both chamber testing and bullet impact, as well as 50 ft. drop tests, through a range of case sizes up to five inches in diameter with plans to scale to 21 inches. This capability is provided with no significant impact on the strength of the case and is in the process of receiving an interim hazard classification that will enable easier transport as well as commercial fabrication of the reactive cases. The team overcame significant challenges in the development of the technology, including changing requirements for the slow cook-off temperature limit that had a continuous impact on additive formulation.

The development was funded through Phase I/II SBIRs, as well as a Phase II enhancement, and a Navy China Lake BAA contract, now about to enter its third year. The importance of the technology to the Navy can be inferred from the decision to continue to fund the BAA component through a period of significant government funding cutbacks that impacted many discretionary R&D efforts.