Helium-Neon Laser Discharge Apparatus

This is the discharge unit for the third type of laser invented. Dr. Ali Javan and his colleagues William Bennett and Donald Herriott demonstrated this laser at Bell Labs in December 1960. Using a mixture of helium and neon gasses, this laser emitted a continuous beam of light at 1.153 nano-meters, in the near-infrared part of the spectrum. Their successful demonstration proved crucial for many applications. The first supermarket scanners, made by Spectra Physics, used a helium-neon laser, as have many other commercial devices.
Ali Javan came to the U.S. from Iran in 1948 and trained in the laboratory of maser inventor Charles H. Townes at Columbia University. When he received his Ph.D. in 1954, Javan went to work at Bell Labs where began investigating the possibility of making a laser using a gaseous medium. His laser was the first gas laser as well as the first laser to produce a continuous beam of radiation.
date made
Javan, Ali
Physical Description
helium (fill gas material)
neon (fill gas material)
steel (overall material)
quartz (tube material)
copper (part material)
overall: 6 7/8 in x 42 1/2 in x 8 1/4 in; 17.4625 cm x 107.95 cm x 20.955 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
from Ali Javan
See more items in
Work and Industry: Electricity
Science & Mathematics
Energy & Power
Inventing In America
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center


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