NEWS | Feb. 22, 2012

Dr. Phillip Sprangle Honored with Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Award

By Donna McKinney

The Naval Research Laboratory's (NRL's) Dr. Phillip Sprangle is being honored with the Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Award. Sprangle is recognized for outstanding scientific leadership and innovative research in support of the Department of the Navy Office of Naval Research Directed Energy programs. Sprangle is the Senior Scientist for Directed Energy Physics at NRL and an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland.

Sprangle is cited for his research accomplishments, which have had a major impact on the Navy's directed energy programs, including the high-power fiber laser and free electron laser weapons systems. The success of his fiber laser combining architecture has led to the initiation of major industry and Navy laser weapon development programs ... In summary, Dr. Sprangle has performed a significant service to the United States Navy through his scientific leadership and innovative research in the area of directed energy weapon systems.

Sprangle's directed-energy research includes high-energy laser propagation, free electron lasers, fiber-laser directed energy systems, laser power beaming, ultra-short, high-intensity laser physics, advanced methods of detection of radioactive material as well as advanced radiation and acceleration physics.

His scientific leadership and innovative research has centered on directed-energy physics areas and has generated a number of important applications for the Navy. He formulated, analyzed and modeled, together with his NRL colleagues, the atmospheric propagation of ultra-short-pulse lasers and high-energy lasers. One of the results of this research is a comprehensive laser propagation model which includes the effects of atmospheric turbulence, molecular and aerosol absorption and scattering as well as thermal blooming.

Sprangle proposed, analyzed and promoted an architecture for a laser weapon based on the incoherent combining of high-power fiber lasers. This architecture takes advantage of recent advances in fiber laser technology and has significant near-term applications for tactical directed-energy systems, including laser weapons and laser power beaming. His research related to the fiber laser combining architecture has resulted in laser weapon development programs in industry and DoD. The Navy's Laser Weapons System (LAWS) program is based on the incoherent combining of high-power fiber lasers. In addition, his research in free electron lasers (FEL) has resulted in a new and lower risk configuration for the Navy's FEL Innovative Naval Prototype (INP) program.

Sprangle received his Ph.D. in Applied Physics from Cornell University in 1974. He came to work at NRL as a research physicist in the Plasma Physics Division in 1974 and became head of the Plasma Theory Branch in 1979. In 1988, he was appointed Senior Scientist for Radiation and Accelerator Physics. He became a member of the Senior Executive Service and head of the Beam Physics Branch in 1990. Then in 2008, he was appointed Senior Scientist for Directed Energy Physics and in 2011 became an adjunct professor at the University of Maryland.

Sprangle's awards include the IEEE Plasma Science Award (2008), Top Navy Scientist and Engineer of the Year Award (2008), Sigma Xi Pure Science Award (1994), International Free Electron Laser Prize (1991), E. O. Hulburt Science and Engineering Award (1986), author of four of NRL's 100 most cited papers, Washington Technology's Top Ten Talents (1989), NRL Technology Transfer Award (1995, 2004), and Alan Berman Research Publication Awards (1974, 1975, 1979, 1992, 1997,1998, 2000, 2010). Sprangle has published over 230 refereed scientific journals, and a NRL/ONR Monograph titled: Review of Free Electron Lasers. He holds 15 U.S. patents and has two patents pending.

Sprangle is a Fellow of the American Physical Society, International Electrical and Electronic Engineers, Directed Energy Professional Society, and Optical Society of America. He is a member of the Free Electron Laser Technology Area Working Groups (2001- present), High-Energy Laser Technology Area Working Group (2002-present), National Academy Committee on High-Energy-Density Plasma Physics (2001-2002), APS Executive Committee of the Plasma Physics Division (1987-1990, 1997), Free Electron Laser International Executive Committee (1985-2001), Exploratory Working Group for joint U.S.-Russia collaboration on FELs (1995), and the Sigma Xi Honor Society. He chaired the 9th International FEL Conference (1987) and the Subgroup to evaluate current U.S. and international efforts in FEL research (1994).