Tiny IR laser holds promise as weapon against terror

Aug. 8, 2005
August 8, 2005, Evanston, IL--Researchers at Northwestern University's Center for Quantum Devices have demonstrated a specialized diode laser that holds promise as a weapon of defense in both civilian and military applications. Once optimized, the tiny laser could quickly detect explosives and chemical warfare agents (CWAs) early and warn against possible threats.

August 8, 2005, Evanston, IL--Researchers at Northwestern University's Center for Quantum Devices have demonstrated a specialized diode laser that holds promise as a weapon of defense in both civilian and military applications. Once optimized, the tiny laser could quickly detect explosives and chemical warfare agents (CWAs) early and warn against possible threats.

The Northwestern team, led by center director Manijeh Razeghi, became the first to create a quantum cascade laser (QCL) that can operate continuously at high power and at room temperature with an emission wavelength of 9.5 microns and a light output of greater than 100 milliwatts.

The challenge for researchers around the world has been to develop a portable laser that operates in the far-infrared (wavelengths of 8 to 12 microns). Every chemical has a unique "fingerprint" because it absorbs light of a specific frequency, and most CWAs fall in the 8 to 12 micron region.

"Our achievement is critical to building an extremely sensitive chemical detection system," said Razeghi, Walter P. Murphy Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering. "One of the key elements in a successful system is the laser source. Both mid- and far-infrared diode lasers need to operate at room temperature, have high power -- greater than 100 milliwatts -- and be extremely small in order to keep the system portable. We have now demonstrated such a laser in the far-infrared wavelength range."

This research is part of a three-year program called Laser Photoacoustic Spectroscopy (LPAS) funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The goal of the program is to develop a man-portable system that can warn against a large number of potential threats using mid- and far-infrared diode lasers. Once optimized, such lasers would be a very reliable means of detecting explosives and chemical warfare agents while distinguishing them from benign chemicals present in the atmosphere.

During the next two years Razeghi and her team will work to put together a detection system based on the center's far-infrared laser. The system will then be evaluated by DARPA for use by the military.

In 2003 the center was the first to demonstrate high-power mid-wavelength infrared continuous wave QCLs operating above room temperature. (Like the far infrared, standard diode lasers cannot access this mid-infrared range.) At present, individual devices with output powers of several hundred milliwatts have been demonstrated in the 3 to 5 micron wavelength range.

Sponsored Recommendations

Request a quote: Micro 3D Printed Part or microArch micro-precision 3D printers

April 11, 2024
See the results for yourself! We'll print a benchmark part so that you can assess our quality. Just send us your file and we'll get to work.

Request a free Micro 3D Printed sample part

April 11, 2024
The best way to understand the part quality we can achieve is by seeing it first-hand. Request a free 3D printed high-precision sample part.

How to Tune Servo Systems: The Basics

April 10, 2024
Learn how to tune a servo system using frequency-based tools to meet system specifications by watching our webinar!

Precision Motion Control for Sample Manipulation in Ultra-High Resolution Tomography

April 10, 2024
Learn the critical items that designers and engineers must consider when attempting to achieve reliable ultra-high resolution tomography results here!

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Laser Focus World, create an account today!