Physicists at the University of California, Los Angeles, have built a device that uses a novel method of producing short tunable pulses of radiation. Working much like the musical accordion, the device employs an extremely short, highly energetic laser pulse from a short-pulse laser moving in a low pressure gas placed in an electric field (Science, Vol 267, No 5205). The pulse interacts with the field and the plasma to produce a pulse of infrared light or microwaves which can be precisely tuned. The device could find applications in communications and in studying magnetic fields near supernovae.
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