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ASME Highlights Cutting-edge Lasers on Capitol Hill
L-Rt James Clayton, Senior Scientist, Varian Medical Systems, Wim Leemans, Director, Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, Jim Kafka, CTO, Spectra-Physics, a part of MKS, E. Michael Campbell, Director of Lab for Laser Energetics, University of Rochester (behind Rep. Louise Slaughter), Dr. Gregory Quarles, Chief Scientist, The Optical Society, and Connie Lausten, ASME Energy Public Policy Task Force Chair, and Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) foreground

ASME convened a congressional staff briefing on Dec. 12th entitled, “Lasers for America: Driving Advancements in Science, National Security, Manufacturing, Health, and U.S. Competitiveness.” The briefing followed the December 7th release of a National Academies of Sciences (NAS) study entitled “Opportunities in Intense Ultrafast Lasers: Reaching for the Brightest Light” that was conducted at the request of the Department of Energy, the Office of Naval Research and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. The NAS study evaluates the current state high intensity ultrafast lasers and laser technologies, and assesses the value of future high intensity laser science programs and facilities in the U.S. and around the world.

US investments in science and technology led to the development of the laser in 1960. Since then, the laser has become a ubiquitous tool across a broad range of applications, including cutting edge discovery science at advanced particle accelerators, the development of advanced materials for national security, and the invention of novel treatments to treat cancer and other medical conditions. Today, the worldwide laser market is valued at roughly $10.5 billion and growing annually.

Another major breakthrough in laser technologies, again led by the United States, is the short-pulse, high-peak-power laser. This new class of laser could have transformative applications with far reaching impact, including development of small, compact particle accelerators that are a fraction of the length of contemporary accelerator systems or powerful new specialized medical treatment and scanning capabilities.

L-Rt Wim Leemans, Jim Kafka, James Clayton, E. Michael Campbell, Dr. Gregory Quarles listen to Rep. Bill Foster (D-IL) speaking at laser ASME’s Laser for America briefing

Despite the United States’ early lead in this technology, the U.S. is at risk of losing its competitive advantage. According to the NAS study, countries in Europe and Asia are investing heavily in this foundational technology and plan to overtake the U.S. At the same time, U.S. federal investment in the research and development of high peak power lasers has been declining significantly, leaving American researchers and companies vulnerable to international competition.

ASME partnered with internationally recognized scientists and representatives from American industry at its Dec. 12th briefing to provide insights to policymakers on the current state of laser science and technology development. Panelists discussed the key role that lasers play in U.S. innovation and economic competitiveness, and how the nation can maintain U.S. preeminence in laser technology.

The briefing was opened with comments from Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY), who spoke about the economic impact that laser science has had on the Rochester, NY region, and Congressman Bill Foster (D-IL), the only physicist in Congress and a passionate champion for physical sciences funding in Congress. Connie Lausten, Chair, ASME Energy Public Policy Task Force and Moderator Dr. Gregory Quarles, Chief Scientist at the Optical Society, guided discussion among the panelists, who offered laser technology expertise from across industry and academia:

  • Dr. E. Michael Campbell, Director of the Laboratory for Laser Energetics, University of Rochester
  • Dr. James Clayton, Senior Scientist, Varian Medical Systems
  • Dr. Jim Kafka, Chief Technology Officer, Spectra-Physics, a part of MKS
  • Dr. Wim Leemans, Director, Accelerator Technology & Applied Physics Division, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

To read more about ASME’s Congressional briefings, please visit: Government Relations and to download the report, please visit:

Briefing Powerpoints/PDF
Campbell, LPP

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