April 11--Zecotek has introduced a rare-earth fine-oxide (RFO) laser crystal that the company says has advantages over the widely used YAG crystal in solid-state lasers. The technology will shortly be the object of an international patent application, says Zecotek, which is based at the University of British Columbia.
Presently, the leading crystal used by laser manufacturers is the YAG crystal, which is used in about 60 percent of laser applications, ranging from high-power industrial laser systems to medical lasers. The YAG crystal is used in applications such as materials processing, marking, micromachining, via drilling of printed circuit boards, and more. Zecotek estimates the sales of the YAG crystal material to be US $40 million per year.
"Our proprietary RFO crystal-growth technology that has been under development for the past three years is a viable substitute to YAG and is targeted to provide the higher performance that manufacturers desire with significant cost savings," says Zecotek's Chairman, President, and CEO, A.F. Zerrouk. "This means lower-cost laser devices and consequently an increased size of the laser markets with an implicit growing demand for our RFO crystal material."
The active elements based on RFO crystals emit shorter laser pulses than do YAG lasers, according to Zecotek, allowing for efficient micromachining of various types of materials. The crystal operates in both continuous-wave and pulsed regimes of the UV, visible, and IR spectral ranges of emission. It allows the generation of short picosecond pulses in UV lasers, which are important to advanced processing of a variety of commercial high-tech products such as silicon, sapphire, diamonds, metals, cell-phone displays, laptops, and LCD televisions, where lasers based on RFO crystals can be used in cost-effective mass-production processes.
Zecotek achieved these results in a preproduction environment. The next step in the RFO development is to fine-tune the mass-market manufacturing process, which is estimated to take 10 to 12 months, says Zecotek. Afterwards, the company will consider a number of alliances that would assist in advancing to large-scale manufacturing.