Femtosecond pulses attract attention

Aug. 1, 2000
It has taken about 20 years for ultrafast sources to evolve from the early sub-100-femtosecond colliding pulse modelocked dye laser developed at Bell Labs (Holmdel, NJ) to today's compact tabletop systems.

It has taken about 20 years for ultrafast sources to evolve from the early sub-100-femtosecond colliding pulse modelocked dye laser developed at Bell Labs (Holmdel, NJ) to today's compact tabletop systems. Advances in materials and diode-pumping combined with the advent of chirped pulse amplification have produced compact lasers capable of emitting light pulses shorter than a few femtoseconds and at very high peak powers. Equally important is the fact that the lasers also have become relatively low cost turnkey systems-putting such sources within reach of almost all research laboratories, and making it possible for the technology to be applied in the "real world."

Now, almost daily (or so it seems) reports highlight the increasing significance of ultrafast pulses and their applications. Most recently, for example, researcher Margaret Murnane at the University of Colarado at Boulder, was awarded a $500,000 MacArthur Foundation fellowship for her work in the generation and application of ultrafast laser pulses (see p. 17). Such shorter pulses together with the compact systems have allowed research to take new directions that range from the generation of x-rays to innovative approaches to medicine and materials processing (see p. 209). And on the commercial front, novel ultrafast sources such as fiber lasers are emerging that are capable of delivering average power and pulse widths that rival solid-state lasers in certain configurations (see p. 133). Not surprisingly, optical communications also is a potential beneficiary of this femtosecond phenomenon-a single ultrafast pulse can generate light at multiple wavelengths, which can be useful in wavelength division multiplexing. And this month's special European Report notes the collaboration in Scotland between universities and industry set up to investigate ultrafast photonics for high-speed (terabit) telecommunications (see p. 120). Elsewhere, and on a totally different scale, a European project has been initiated to improve the diffraction efficiency and damage threshold of gratings used on ultrabright lasers so that the focused intensity of these systems can be increased to new highs (see p. 46).

Moving on

For the past 13 years our coverage of ultrafast and all the other optoelectronics technologies has been coordinated and overseen by our managing editor, Barbara Murray. She has played a major role in ensuring the timeliness and high quality of Laser Focus World's content. Barbara decided to retire at the end of last month-we wish her well, but we shall all miss her. We have been fortunate in finding a new managing editor, thoughCarol Settino joined us last month and will continue to ensure the same quality and timeliness that our readers have come to expect.

About the Author

Stephen G. Anderson | Director, Industry Development - SPIE

 Stephen Anderson is a photonics industry expert with an international background and has been actively involved with lasers and photonics for more than 30 years. As Director, Industry Development at SPIE – The international society for optics and photonics – he is responsible for tracking the photonics industry markets and technology to help define long-term strategy, while also facilitating development of SPIE’s industry activities. Before joining SPIE, Anderson was Associate Publisher and Editor in Chief of Laser Focus World and chaired the Lasers & Photonics Marketplace Seminar. Anderson also co-founded the BioOptics World brand. Anderson holds a chemistry degree from the University of York and an Executive MBA from Golden Gate University.    

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