1965—The first quantitative and predictable "two-photon detachment" was performed by NIST scientist Jan Hall working with Lewis Branscomb using a ruby laser and a beam of negative iodine molecules. The experiment provided a clear validation of the new technique of detaching electrons from atoms using two photons of laser light. The technique has led to advances in a wide range of technology areas, from radar performance to quantum cryptography, the most secure method known for protecting the privacy of a communications channel.
1966—NIST began its program to develop measurement tools for lasers. Early demands for laser power and energy measurements were driven by military applications and civilian laser safety concerns. Some of the earliest work focusing on laser safety issues helped to accelerate the dissemination of everyday laser products, such as grocery store scanners. Each advance required new types of measurements to verify performance and enable manufacturers to produce a uniform product. NIST initially focused on developing standard calorimeters to measure the power in laser beams. For instance, NIST built calorimeters to measure the output of very high-energy lasers to be used in defensive weapons of the Strategic Defense Initiative ("Star Wars") program. The early capabilities developed at NIST supported industrial-safety measurements of the laser pointers used in lecture presentations. For more, see http://ts.nist.gov/MeasurementServices/Calibrations/laseroptoelectronic.cfm