Conditions necessary to obtain optimum yield of useful products when coal is rapidly heated to extreme temperatures by laser irradiation were determined by the Bureau of Mines. Product distribution and yield were investigated as functions of several variables. Low-rank coals with high-volatile matter gave highest total gas yields. Medium-rank coals gave the highest yields of h2 and c2h2, and low- rank coals gave highest yields of CO and co2. Macerals gave gases of approximately the same composition, but the total gas yield increased in the order fusinite, micrinite, vitrinite, and exinite. Total gas and c2h2 yields varied inversely with particle size. The addition of nominally inert gases such as ar, he, n2 increased yields of h2, c2h2, and total gas. Metals such as nickel and platinum had little influence on the rate of coal decomposition. Total gas yield increased with total energy of irradiation, and the ratio of c2h2-ch4 increased with concentration of energy. A study was also made of the irradiation temperature, and a material balance was calculated.