Experimental Laser Crystal

A major breakthrough marks only the beginning of a scientist's work. In November 1960 Peter Sorokin and Mirek Stevenson, at IBM's Watson Research Center, successfully demonstrated a second type of laser. They energized a crystal of calcium-fluorine treated with a variety of uranium (written in chemical symbols as CaF2:U3+) to generate a pulse of laser light.
Sorokin and other colleagues experimented with many elements as they learned more about both pulsed and continuous-wave lasers. This crystal, from mid-1962, was the first one made of strontium, fluorine and samarium (SrF2:Sm2+) to successfully operate. Laser research was a very competitive field. Despite their efforts at IBM, Sorokin told museum staff that a team from Bell Labs, "made the first CW [continuous wave] solid-state laser using an ordinary crystal of CaF2:U3+. After that achievement we abandoned our CW efforts and went on to other topics." Those other topics included significant early work on generating laser beams using liquid dyes.
Currently not on view
Object Name
laser crystal
date made
Physical Description
strontium (overall material)
samarium (overall material)
fluorine (overall material)
white (overall color)
overall: 3/4 in x 3/16 in; 1.905 cm x .47625 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Energy & Power
Science & Mathematics
See more items in
Work and Industry: Electricity
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
from International Business Machines Corp., Thomas J. Watson Research Center

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