July 31, 2006, Hampshire, England--A consortium of eight partners led by QinetiQ has been awarded £1 million (US$1.9 million) funding from the UK Department of Trade and Industry to develop mid-infrared (MIR) semiconductor lasers with a wide range of potential commercial applications in healthcare, environmental monitoring, manufacturing, and free space communications.
Until now the commercial potential of MIR lasers has been limited because they require cooling to minus 200 degrees Celsius using expensive mechanical cooling techniques. A semiconductor laser consists of several layers to enable separate confinement of the charge carriers and the light. If the middle active layer, where the charge carriers are confined, is made thin enough to act as a quantum well, the laser can be made more efficient. The consortium will use strained-layer engineering to develop a new laser with a highly efficient active region that can operate close to room temperature without the need for expensive cooling.
"QinetiQ is delighted to be leading this program which has the potential to revolutionise the use of mid-infrared lasers, transforming them from a niche role to a pervasive technology," said program leader Tim Ashley of QinetiQ. "The three-year program has a strong commercial focus with the emphasis on testing prototype lasers in real systems to validate potential system improvements."
In addition to managing the consortium, QinetiQ will lead the development of semiconductor material and device fabrication technology. Ring-laser expertise will be provided by Lancaster University, which has developed a novel whispering gallery mode resonator and the theoretical modelling of semiconductor lasers will be conducted by Surrey University.
The consortium has a strong commercial focus, with the Centre for Integrated Photonics deploying its extensive experience on optical communication laser design and fabrication and Cablefree Solutions testing prototype lasers in free-space optical communications systems. Procal Analytics will optimize laser devices for compact remote gas sensing instruments, which BP will field-test in the petro-chemical industry environment. Finally Anasys Instruments will test laser devices in a photo-thermal biomedical imaging system.