200A Ojo de la Vaca Road, Santa Fe, NM 87508 USA



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Welcome to our website! Stanford graduate and Photonic Associates Managing Partner Dr. Claude Phipps has deep expertise in plasma physics and laser interaction with materials. He believes he can help you complete any project in these areas.

He earned his Ph.D. for the first laser-plasma interaction experiment at Stanford, using a technique called “Thomson Scattering” to measure the velocity distributions of electrons and protons in a pulsed electrical discharge plasma in 1972.


From his first position working for Dr. Ray Kidder at Livermore to help achieve “laser fusion,” Phipps worked on environmentally beneficial projects. One of these is laser space debris removal, a passionate interest. He first proposed the ORION idea in 1995 to use lasers to clear out space junk, and NASA funded a comprehensive study of it in 1996. The concept goes on with better ideas, using a high power UV pulsed laser (L'ADROIT).


This year, he has given invited talks on the topic at the Laser Solutions for Space and the Earth conference in Yokohama and the RIKEN institute in Japan, spoke at the CNES Workshop on Space Debris Modeling and Remediation in Paris, and gave an invited lecture at the International School on Lasers in Materials Science in Venice.


Photonic Associates is a high-tech Santa Fe partnership he formed in 1995 to study laser space propulsion. He helped invent this whole field, which will allow us to reduce the high costs of getting to space by a factor of 100. The science behind this is called laser ablation, and theory he developed for it is widely used. Phipps initiated the first International Symposium on High Power Laser Ablation in Santa Fe in 1998. Since then, these symposia have been held every other year.


The latest symposium, HPLA/DE 2016, was held at Hotel La Fonda in Santa Fe April 4-7. We combined forces with the Directed Energy Professional Society (DEPS). We hosted 150 attendees from 20 countries. Topics ranged from forefront physics to DPALS and XPALS to MAPLE, laser ablation propulsion and metamaterials. We had 5 keynote speakers: Gérard Mourou [inventor of chirped pulse amplification], Aaron Lindenberg [Stanford], Fabio di Teodoro [Raytheon], Boris Zhdanov [Air Force Academy] and Mark Neice [DEPS chair]. Hotel La Fonda catered our conference dinner at the Governor's Residence.


Phipps recently finished a book published by Springer, called “No Wonder you Wonder,” [Springer DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-21680-5] which will make science and technology understandable to you and your kids. Go look for it in your local bookstore, or here or here, or contact him to buy it at a pretty good price.


Fine Print: Our main experience is in laser space propulsion systems and concepts. Examples are the high-thrust and high-exhaust velocity versions of the laser plasma thruster (LPT). We designed liquid fuel versions of this unit to generate 1 N thrust and 10ks Isp. We have expertise in linear and nonlinear optics, magneto-optics and space system design, and do in-depth technical consulting on laser applications. We built a widely-used analytical model for predicting pressure generation on opaque surfaces in vacuum, by laser pulses with duration from 100ps to 1ms, across the spectrum from excimer to carbon dioxide laser wavelengths, and codes which calculate pressure with a smooth transition from the vapor regime to the plasma-dominated regime.

You can browse Dr. Phipps' selected publications here.


Products: Three PA commercial products, ranging from the LPT to hybrid battery chargers, are here.

Recent Publications:

"L'ADROIT - A spaceborne ultraviolet laser system for space debris clearing"

"A spaceborne, pulsed UV laser system for re-entering or nudging LEO debris, and re-orbiting GEO debris"

And... don't miss our new book, No Wonder You Wonder (Springer), 300 pages of exploration and explanation of science and its mysteries!


  • Laser Plasma Thruster (LPT), U.S. Patent 6,530,212 granted March 11, 2003
  • A new rotational motion sensor, U.S. Patent 7,460,243 granted December 2, 2008


Customers: AEgis Technologies Group, Huntsville, AL; Alliant Tech Systems, Newington VA; Anteon Corporation, Dayton OH; Bekey Designs, Inc.; Blue 52 Productions, Inc. Bellaire MI; Innovation Photonics, Verona NJ; Intellectual Ventures, Bellevue WA; Lawrence Livermore National Lab; NASA Headquarters, Washington DC; NASA Marshall Spaceflight Center, Huntsville, AL; NASA Glenn Research Center, Cleveland OH; Sirius Associates, Huntsville, AL; US Air Force Office of Scientific Research; US Department of Defense, US Missle Defense Agency


Dr. Phipps' personal opinions page is here.

ORION: Laser on Earth Clears Space Debris

L'ADROIT: Ultraviolet Laser in Space Clears Debris more effectively

HPLA/DE 2016

The Laser Plasma Thruster

The 300V 20A Hybrid Battery Charger