HRL, Optical Physics & Optoelectronics
With the advent of the laser, Hughes researchers continued investigations with ruby and a variety of other substances, including noble gases and water. The device was a valuable tool for studying matter, and investigations of its importance to communications began. Work in laser rangefinding for the military led to the first long-distance laser link demonstrated between Hughes’ Malibu and Culver City facilities. Researchers also began investigating holography, which was made possible with the invention of the laser.
Laser rangefinding became a multi-billion dollar industry for Hughes into the 1970s. The company became an established leader in developing complex integrated circuits with micrometer dimensions for use in integrated microwave circuits and in new integrated optical circuits that were developed in the exciting new field of fiber optics. In 1978, scientists invented a technique for manufacturing glass optical fibers with the strength of steel wire. These fibers were used in Hughes' Fiber Optic Guided Missile Program, FOG-M, and enabled missile flight to be controlled by light signals and television pictures to be transmitted from a missile to the ground launch site.
Optics became a main focus in the 1980s, leading to the manufacture of fiber optical cables for controlling and testing microwave radar antenna systems. Optical phase conjugation techniques were developed for atmospheric compensation—sending a light beam into the atmosphere, bouncing it off an object, and having it return to Earth with similar sharpness, thus removing the blurring effects of atmospheric turbulence.
Heading into the 1990s, researchers continued to set records with microelectronics and optoelectronic circuits using Indium Phosphide as the substrate material because it is the only material in which analog, digital microwave circuits, lasers and other optical devices can be fabricated on the same chip. The capability led to systems on a single chip, a concept that continues to mature with new materials and nanotechnology.
HRL continues to make major contributions to the application of photonics in ultra-wideband signal processing and in the development of RF photonic links for antenna remoting. We've developed high-power solid-state lasers and demonstrated new concepts for coherent beam combining. These milestone accomplishments have led to the demonstration of photonic analog-to-digital conversion, optoelectronic integrated circuits with on-chip photodetectors, high-Q silica and Si microresonators, Yb:YAG lasers (demonstrated in Maiman's ruby laser laboratory), and other solid-state laser oscillators and amplifiers.
Early Press Releases (pdf)
June 19, 1962 New Laser Pumped Maser May Close Gap in Spectrum
December 3, 1962 New Liquid Laser Developed by Hughes Scientists
May 15, 1964 Newest Hughes Lasers Cover Wide Spectrum
February 18, 1965 Hughes Develops CW Ruby Laser at Room Temperature
1967: Hologram Exposure Set Up
The laser enabled the development of holography—the ability to view 3D images in space. The set up above was for photographing stationary objects, but researchers also demonstrated motion picture holography.