Medium efficiently converts solar rays into laser beams

Japan’s aerospace agency and a laser research institute have brought science a step closer to the possibility of using lasers to beam solar energy from space, researchers said Wednesday.

They have jointly developed a new laser medium that can convert solar energy into laser beams almost 20 times more efficiently than current materials, they said.

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and the Institute for Laser Technology succeeded in improving the level of efficiency to 37 percent from the current 2 percent. The new substance — ceramic YAG — is created by adding chromium atoms to YAG, a compound of yttrium, aluminum and garnet, and treating it at a high temperature.

“We have established the principle theory on how to improve the conversion efficiency and would now like to design a device that can be placed on a satellite,” said Shigeaki Uchida, a researcher at the institute.

Masahiro Mori of the agency said, “We want to test the system by launching it into space by 2010 on a satellite.”