Rose-Hulman Institute & Navy collaborate on laser lab

CRANE, IN-A new $1 million high-energy laser laboratory at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology will enable faculty and students to use the latest in ultrashort pulse laser technology for applications that include improving military defense systems, detecting biological and chemical agents, and commercial uses in the biomedical and communications fields.

CRANE, IN-A new $1 million high-energy laser laboratory at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology will enable faculty and students to use the latest in ultrashort pulse laser technology for applications that include improving military defense systems, detecting biological and chemical agents, and commercial uses in the biomedical and communications fields.

The Ultrashort Pulse Laser Laboratory, which is the result of one of many collaborative programs involving Rose-Hulman and the Crane Division, Naval Surface Warfare Center at Crane, IN, was officially dedicated on October 9. Funding for the laboratory came through the Navy Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation Program.

Rose-Hulman President Gerald Jakubowski emphasized that students are eager to use the lab. “More students want to experience the lab than can be accommodated at this time,” he said. “Seven undergraduate and two graduate students are already working in the lab.”

“This lab is different from the small number of ultrashort pulse laser (USPL) labs operating at other campuses for two important reasons,” noted Galen Duree, associate professor of physics and optical engineering at Rose-Hulman, who will direct the projects in the laboratory. “First, our work will concentrate on developing applications for the use of ultrashort pulse lasers rather than focusing our efforts solely on theory. Second, undergraduate students will play a major role in our projects. The students are gaining experience with state-of-the-art nonlinear laser technology,” Duree said.

The partnership with Crane is focused on two issues, according to Duree. One is to assist Crane in developing USPL applications of military value. The second is to find ways of delivering the resulting technology to the soldiers in the field as quickly as possible.

Duree said work is underway to use the technology to support the missile countermeasure efforts at Crane. The USPL technology is also being applied to improve the detection and neutralization of improvised explosive devices such as roadside bombs.

Duree noted that USPL systems push the technological limits of the physical capabilities of the components of these laser systems. “Undergraduate students now have the unique experience with this system to be able to identify problems that inevitably arise and learn how to deal with them before the components are irreparably damaged,” he said. “The students must apply their knowledge to bridge the gap between current technology and the expanded capabilities of this system. This is definitely a unique experience for undergraduate students anywhere.”

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