Prototype Excimer Laser

Ralph Burnham and Nick Djeu made this prototype excimer laser in mid-1975 while at the Naval Research Laboratory. A modified carbon-dioxide laser known as a TEA laser (Transversely Excited, Atmospheric pressure), this laser used a mixture of xenon and fluoride gasses to produce a pulse of ultraviolet laser light. Ultraviolet light has a shorter wavelength than visible light and thus a higher energy level.
The term "excimer" refers to a molecule of two identical atoms that remains stable when in an excited state. The first laser to use such molecules was made in Moscow in 1970 and used molecules consisting of two xenon atoms. Lasers using molecules of differing atoms (technically called an exciplex-laser) were made by several teams of researchers in the US early in 1975. Burnham and Djeu's breakthrough lay in using a commercially available TEA laser to generate the excimer laser pulse. Their apparatus was much smaller and used less energy than prior excimer lasers that were energized by electron-beams.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Date made
ca 1976
Naval Research Laboratory
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
plastic (part material)
overall: 48 cm x 100 cm x 10 cm; 18 7/8 in x 39 3/8 in x 3 15/16 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
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Work and Industry: Electricity
Science & Mathematics
Energy & Power
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center


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