JILA team uses gravity to damp laser cavity vibrations

July 27, 2005
July 27, 2005, Boulder, CO--A compact, inexpensive method for stabilizing lasers that uses a new cavity design to reduce sensitivity to vibration and gravity 100 times better than similar approaches has been demonstrated by scientists at JILA (Boulder, CO), a joint institute of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Colorado at Boulder.

July 27, 2005, Boulder, CO--A compact, inexpensive method for stabilizing lasers that uses a new cavity design to reduce sensitivity to vibration and gravity 100 times better than similar approaches has been demonstrated by scientists at JILA (Boulder, CO) a joint institute of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Colorado at Boulder.

The method, described in the July 15 issue of Optics Letters, stabilizes laser light to a single frequency, so that it can be used as a reliable reference oscillator for technologies such as optical clocks and LIDAR. The new stabilizer design performs better than similar systems of comparable size and is much smaller and less expensive than the best-performing systems, according to physicist John Hall, a co-author of the paper.

The JILA team shortened the laser cavity and oriented it vertically instead of horizontally, with symmetrical mounting supports so that gravity and vibration forces yielded opposing distortions in the two halves, and thus balanced out to zero net effect. The system was demonstrated with an infrared laser. "We designed the cavity so it doesn't care if it's vibrating," said Hall, who helped develop a leading resonant cavity design two decades ago. "We get good performance with a complete reduction of complexity and cost."

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