Chemical oxygen iodine laser

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A Chemical oxygen iodine laser, or COIL, is a near–infrared chemical laser. As the beam is infrared, it cannot be seen with the naked eye. It is capable of output power scaling up to megawatts in continuous mode.[citation needed] Its output wavelength is 1315 nm, a transition wavelength of atomic iodine.

A COIL system mounted on a Boeing 747 variant known as the YAL-1 Airborne Laser.

The laser is fed with gaseous chlorine, molecular iodine, and an aqueous mixture of hydrogen peroxide and potassium hydroxide. The aqueous peroxide solution undergoes chemical reaction with chlorine, producing heat, potassium chloride, and oxygen in excited state, singlet delta oxygen. Spontaneous transition of excited oxygen to the triplet sigma ground state is forbidden giving the excited oxygen a spontaneous lifetime of about 45 minutes. This allows the singlet oxygen to transfer its energy to the iodine molecules injected to the gas stream; they are nearly resonant with the singlet oxygen, so the energy transfer during the collision of the particles is rapid. The excited iodine then undergoes stimulated emission and lases at 1.315 μm in the optical resonator region of the laser.

The laser operates at relatively low gas pressures, but the gas flow has to be nearing the speed of sound at the reaction time; even supersonic flow designs are described. The low pressure and fast flow make removal of heat from the lasing medium easy, in comparison with high-power solid-state lasers. The reaction products are potassium chloride, water, and oxygen. Traces of chlorine and iodine are removed from the exhaust gases by a halogen scrubber.

COIL was developed by the US Air Force in 1977, for military purposes. However, its properties make it useful for industrial processing as well; the beam is focusable and can be transferred by an optical fiber, as its wavelength is not absorbed much by fused silica but is well absorbed by metals, making it suitable for laser cutting and drilling. Rapid cutting of stainless steel and hastelloy with a fiber-coupled COIL has been demonstrated.[1] In 1996, TRW Incorporated managed to get a continuous beam of hundreds of kilowatts of power that lasted for several seconds.[citation needed]

RADICL, Research Assessment, Device Improvement Chemical Laser, is a 20 kW COIL laser tested by the United States Air Force in around 1998.[2]

COIL is a component of the United States' military airborne laser and advanced tactical laser programs. On February 11, 2010, this weapon was successfully deployed to shoot down a missile off the central California coast in a test conducted with a laser aboard a Boeing 747 that took off from the Point Mugu Naval Air Warfare Center (for more details, see Boeing YAL-1).[3]

All gas-phase iodine laser (AGIL) is a similar construction using all-gas reagents, more suitable for aerospace applications.

The ElectricOIL, or EOIL, offers the same iodine lasing species in an alternate gas-electric hybrid variant.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Cutting performance of a chemical oxygen-iodine laser on aerospace and industrial materials". 2006-06-16. Archived from the original on 2013-07-20. Retrieved 2014-04-25.
  2. ^ "COIL Systems Offer Optimum". Archived from the original on 2003-03-09. Retrieved 2008-05-10. (via Google cache)
  3. ^ "AP US Missile Defense Test". The New York Times.[dead link]

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