About Scientific Materials
Bozeman Montana

Back in 1960, researchers were engaged in cutting edge quantum physics aimed at building a “coherent light machine” based on a 1958 theoretical paper, "Infrared and optical masers,” by two scientists at the famed Bell Labs in New Jersey. Despite enormous sums of money and the efforts of top physicists from around the world, no one had yet built a working model, and doubts were growing that such a machine was possible.

Meanwhile, at Hughes Aircraft in California, a poorly funded junior physicist named Ted Maiman was trying the unconventional approach of utilizing a single crystal solid state material as the ‘quantum engine’ for the device. He asked Ralph Hutcheson, then at Union Carbide, to produce the world’s first optical-quality laser rod from Ruby crystal. On May 16, 1960, Dr. Maiman stunned the world by creating the first LASER, using Ralph’s rods.[1],[2],[3] This invention launched one of the most broad reaching technologies of the 20th century. The uses and applications of lasers have revolutionized scientific research ranging from the smallest quantum particles to the scale of the universe. From rock concerts, to next generation medical procedures; from optical communications at the ‘speed of light’, to the military’s most advanced sensing and weaponry systems, lasers are everywhere in daily life.

In the years following the invention of the laser, the quality of laser crystals became a limiting factor to the growth of the laser industry. In 1989, after more than three decades in the laser materials industry, Ralph Hutcheson founded a company in Bozeman Montana near the campus of Montana State University dedicated to the development and growth of the world’s highest quality single-crystal laser materials. He succeeded, and the company he founded, Scientific Materials, was acquired by FLIR Systems in 2005.

Today, SM’s roots remain as the leading maker of high quality and next generation crystalline laser materials in the world, producing laser crystals and specialty parts for applications in Medical, Military, Industrial and Scientific markets.

  1. Light Amplified by Stimulated Emission of Radiation
  2. U.S. Patent 3,353,115
  3. 3 Maiman has received multiple awards including the Japan Prize in 1987 and was nominated for the Nobel Prize on several occasions. He authored the book “The Laser Odyssey"