WhiteLase project funds supercontinuum fiber lasers

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND--A consortium of three partners led by U.K. ultrafast-fiber-laser manufacturer Fianium received substantial funding for development and evaluation of advanced white-light (supercontinuum) fiber lasers for biomedical imaging applications.

SOUTHAMPTON, ENGLAND--A consortium of three partners led by U.K. ultrafast-fiber-laser manufacturer Fianium received substantial funding for development and evaluation of advanced white-light (supercontinuum) fiber lasers for biomedical imaging applications. Fianium, along with the Centre for Photonics and Photonic Materials (CPPM) at the University of Bath (Bath, England) and Edinburgh Instruments (Livingston, England) will collaborate on the “WhiteLase” project, which was awarded $3.68 million dollars by the UK’s Technology Strategy Board. The project goal is to deliver supercontinuum sources from ultraviolet (UV) wavelengths of less than 300 nm up to infrared (IR) wavelengths of 2500 nm, and ultra-bright visible supercontinuum sources, all for fluorescence imaging applications.

The project is a result of a competitive program announced in November 2007 by the Technology Strategy Board, a business-led public body established by the U.K. government to promote and support research and development of technology. John Clowes, director of business development at Fianium and coordinator of the WhiteLase project, said, “This award is in recognition of of Fianium’s achievements at the forefront of supercontinuum fiber-laser technology. Past collaboration with the CPPM at the University of Bath has been extremely successful and we are excited at the prospect of developing revolutionary new white-light fiber lasers for biomedical imaging applications.” CPPM team leader William Wadsworth added, “The challenging objectives of the WhiteLase project will undoubtedly lead us to exciting new developments in photonic crystal fibers.”

Supercontinuum lasers have enormous potential in applications ranging from biomedical imaging to industrial manufacturing, inspection, and defense. Fianium introduced the first high-brightness picosecond fiber laser in 2005 that delivered approximately 1 W of output power across a spectrum from 500 nm to 2 µm. In less than three years, the output power of their supercontinuum lasers increased to more than 8 W, with a spectrum ranging from below 400 to beyond 2400 nm. “This development is proving to be extremely important for fluorescence imaging applications such as confocal microscopy and flow cytometry,” says Clowes.

Describing the Technology Strategy Board’s support for the WhiteLase project, photonics technologist Mike Biddle said, “Such projects stimulate the development and deployment of technologies that, as well as benefiting society, also represent major business opportunities for the U.K.”

As end-user partners, Edinburgh Instruments will be first in line to have access to the newly-developed supercontinuum fiber lasers and will provide commercial direction and field expertise to evaluate the resulting sources in a host of fluorescence imaging applications. With UV content down to below 300 nm, the new lasers are expected to provide spectral power densities an order of magnitude higher than those of existing supercontinuum sources.

Clowes stressed the significance of the U.K. Technology Strategy Board program and other collaborative R&D programs in Europe and North America. “As always, quality comes at a price, and the cost of funding-applied research and development at leading institutions like the CPPM is often prohibitively expensive for all but the largest of companies. The funding from the Technology Strategy Board is therefore key. Without such funding, the rate of development of this exciting technology would undoubtedly be slowed.”

The two-year project starts on October 1 this year; Fianium expects to gradually introduce the supercontinuum product portfolio developments to the market. “The sources developed in this project will amount to a paradigm leap in supercontinuum laser technology,” said Clowes, “both in terms of scaling of the spectral brightness to more than 20 mW/nm and in producing a supercontinuum source to cover the UV and visible regions of the spectrum.”

--Valerie C. Coffey

More in Home