laser industry report

Aculight combines 1400 laser diodes into one

Aculight combines 1400 laser diodes into one

Aculight (Bothell, WA) has produced an external-cavity laser diode that combines the outputs from seven laser-diode bars, each containing 200 single-mode emitters, to generate 26‑W of near-diffraction-limited light at 820 nm. Aculight originally developed the 820-nm laser for a military customer that needed to project a small spot of light on a ­faraway target using a highly efficient light source. Among its unique ­characteristics is spectral beam combining, a power-scalable technique that overlays the outputs of many laser emitters into a single, near-­diffraction-limited beam.

nLight components ­chosen for laser weapons

The U.S. Air Force has picked nLight (Vancouver, BC, Canada) to develop its next-generation laser weapon systems, which will generate $25 million in revenues through 2009. In the past year, nLight has secured about $6 million in defense contracts and $12 million from private investors. The U.S. Senate in June earmarked another $4 million contract for fiscal year 2005. The company’s laser-diode technology can be used to guide missiles to the intended target, redirect incoming projectiles, and detect remote targets like land mines. It can also be used for illumination. The applications can be transferred to industrial and medical fields.

Textron wins $50 million lidar contract

Textron Systems (Wilmington, MA) was awarded a $49.9 million contract by the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Directed Energy Directorate at Kirtland Air Force Base (Albuquerque, NM) for light detection and ranging (lidar) research. The five-year program will focus on understanding the role of non-weapons-class lasers, laser radars, laser sensing, remote sensing and measurement systems, target acquisition and tracking, and general imaging systems. By combining infrared solid-state laser and low-noise focal-plane technologies with its extensive expertise in airborne optical systems, Textron plans to further the development of airborne sensor packages to support fire-control missions.

NASA and MIT collaborate on space communications

A NASA/MIT Lincoln Laboratory (Greenbelt, MD) team is working to forge the first laser communication link between Mars and Earth as part of NASA’s Vision for Space Exploration. In 2010, the Mars Laser Communication Demonstration (MLCD) will test the first deep-space laser communication link. The expected data rate varies depending on the position of Mars in its orbit, the weather and atmospheric conditions on Earth, and whether reception is occurring in daytime or nighttime. When Mars is at its farthest point from Earth and the reception is occurring during daytime, the team expects to receive data at a rate of 1‑million bit/s, but when Mars is at its closest approach and reception is at night, the rate could be 30 times higher. Today, the maximum data rate transmitted to Earth by spacecraft at Mars is about 128,000 bit/s.

MLCD will fly on the Mars Telecommunications Orbiter spacecraft, which is planned for launch in 2009. Lasers have not been used for deep-space communications until now because they first had to be made reliable and efficient enough for use in spacecraft millions of miles from Earth.

Also in the news . . .

Synoptics (Charlotte, NC), a division of Northrop Grumman, was awarded a $550,000 contract by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory to develop a new capability to bond laser materials of different types, resulting in improved performance, thermal management, and efficiency. . . . Applied Optoelectronics (Sugarland, TX) acquired U.S. Patent 6,263,002 from Micron Optics (Atlanta, GA). The patent covers external-cavity diode-laser technology, in which one of the cavity mirrors is formed by optical elements not directly integrated on the laser chip. . . . General Atomics (San Diego, CA) has entered the industrial-laser market with a new class of high-peak-power, solid-state, Q-switched lasers. The Everest product line was created to offer high-speed, precision machining with the quality of femtosecond processing, without the complexity and cost of femtosecond lasers. . . . University of Central Florida (Orlando, FL) optics researchers and students are the beneficiaries of a $24 million donation of intellectual property, equipment, and cash from Northrop Grumman. The funds will boost the College of Optics and Photonics’ research in extreme-ultraviolet lithography. . . . Novalux (Sunnyvale, CA) appointed Jean-Michel Pelaprat as executive chairman. Pelaprat has more than 25 years of experience in the photonics industry, including 12 years at Coherent.

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