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Lasertel wins $1 million contract to make laser diodes for US military

25 Oct 2017

As part of DARPA’s EUCLID Program, US company will develop lightweight diode pumps for fiber lasers.

Lasertel, a specialist subsidiary of defense and engineering technology giant Leonardo, has been awarded a $1 million “Phase 1” contract to participate in the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Efficient Ultra-Compact Laser Integrated Devices (“EUCLID”) program.

The EUCLID program is intended to greatly reduce the size and weight of laser diode pump sources for fiber lasers used in directed energy (laser weapon) applications.

Lasertel is a vertically integrated developer of high-power semiconductor laser components and customer laser solutions, particularly custom laser diodes.The Tucson, AZ-based firm produces a range of chips, bars, array packages and fiber-coupled devices with peak wavelengths from 770nm to 1050nm and peak powers from 200mW to several kW.

The company’s contract-win announcement stated, “High-energy laser technology has the potential to provide new and enhanced defense capabilities. However, until recently, these systems have been too large and heavy to be widely integrated in military platforms. “

Lasertel will be using the extra funding to work over the next 12 months to develop a new laser diode pump source capable of providing high power and low SWaP. The company expects product size and weight to be significantly below that of products currently on the market.

EUCLID approach

The DARPA Microsystems Technology Office (MTO) explained at the end of 2016 that the EUCLID program was seeking research proposals for the development of highly efficient, ultra-compact, fiber-coupled laser diode modules suitable for pumping high power fiber lasers.

It stated, “High-energy laser (HEL) technology is of interest to the US Military for its potential to provide new and enhanced capabilities such as silent engagement, deep magazine, scalable effects, and reduced logistics burdens. Until recently, these systems have been too large and heavy to be widely deployed on military platforms.

“The laser diode pump modules that power the fiber laser amplifiers are presently a significant driver of system-level SWaP. Low module efficiency increases demand on the power system and the amount of waste heat that the thermal management system must dissipate.”

Opportunity

At that time, EUCLID program manager program Dr. Joseph Mangano, explained, “Because many modules are needed to power a single fiber amplifier, low packing density of the modules leads to a larger integrating structure and more electrical, cooling, and optical overhead. However, primary development drivers to date have been commercial market priorities, continuous operation for long time periods and long life rather than low size/weight and high efficiency. As a result, there is opportunity for significant size and weight reduction while increasing electrical-to-optical efficiency of DPMs.”

The Efficient, Ultra-Compact, Laser-Integrated Diodes (EUCLID) program seeks to drive down the size and weight of diode pump module (DPM) technology while increasing electrical-to-optical efficiency and optimizing modules for dense packaging. To enable significant further near-term reduction in the SWaP of fiber laser arrays, the EUCLID BAA seeks proposals to develop and demonstrate DPMs consistent with SWaP, efficiency, and system compatibility metrics.

Desired DPMs would be capable of being densely packaged with other identical modules in a configuration consistent with integration into line-replaceable high-power fiber amplifier assemblies. DPM output power of above 650W is desired to minimize packaging and overall system SWaP.

The outputs of such modules, when combined, should also allow for efficiently pumping as wide a range of high power fiber amplifier output powers (between 1 kW and 3 kW) as possible. This would provide the flexibility to optimally tailor the array size and output power for various DoD HEL applications.

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