DARPA selects Pranalytica to develop beam-combining techniques for high-power QC lasers

April 14, 2009--Pranalytica (Santa Monica, CA), a manufacturer of quantum-cascade lasers and laser-based trace-gas detection equipment, was selected by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) program to participate in Phase I of the Beam Combining of High Power Quantum Cascade Laser (QCL) Arrays project for the US Army Aviation and Missile Command (AMCOM).

April 14, 2009--Pranalytica (Santa Monica, CA), a manufacturer of quantum-cascade lasers and laser-based trace-gas detection equipment (see also "Pranalytica introduces handheld quantum-cascade-laser-based IR devices for targeting and IFF"), was selected by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) program to participate in Phase I of the Beam Combining of High Power Quantum Cascade Laser (QCL) Arrays project for the US Army Aviation and Missile Command (AMCOM).

The project was created to fill the need of the Department of Defense (DoD) for directional infrared countermeasures (DIRCM), advanced stand-off chemical sensors, and Laser Radar (LADAR). Potential non-military applications include DIRCM protection of civilian airliners from shoulder-fired missiles, detection of toxic industrial gases, and atmospheric pollution monitoring (see LFW related story "Mid-IR QC laser exhibits dual-wavelength emission").

Kumar N. Patel, president and CEO of Pranalytica, said, "Beam combining of high power quantum cascade laser arrays is a step forward in protecting airborne assets from shoulder-fired missiles (also called man-portable air-defense systems, MANPADS), detecting harmful elements in the field, and creating a virtual picture of the combat area. All these applications help produce a safer and more secure environment for our nation's war fighters."

The objective of the first phase of the SBIR is to demonstrate high power quantum cascade laser arrays while maintaining good beam quality. Phase I calls for making a 200 mW average power, thermoelectrically cooled laser with at least 4% wall-plug efficiency (WPE), and planning for combining those into a 1 W module. Phase II calls for extending the approach to > 5 W average power levels.

"Pranalytica has already developed a 3 Watt continuous wave room temperature laser running at over 10% WPE, which dramatically exceeds Phase I goals, and is in principle already able to satisfy the literal Phase II goals with simple polarization beam combining of only two QLCs," noted Patel. "However, we will fulfill the spirit of the SBIR and combine multiple high power emitters, thus providing various DoD components with an extensible method of creating very high power QCL modules, exceeding 10 watts."

For more information, go to www.pranalytica.com.

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--Posted by Gail Overton, gailo@pennwell.com; www.laserfocusworld.com.

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