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£10 million investment boosts laser research

27 Jun 2008

Hybrid and quantum-dot based sources could find application in new areas thanks to two European projects that have recently been granted over £10 million.

This month saw the launch of two projects that have been granted over £10 million in total to develop a new generation of hybrid lasers as well as ultrafast quantum-dot (QD) based sources. Both projects will target compact and versatile lasers for applications ranging from biophotonics to communications and instrumentation.

The first project draws on the expertise of 18 European partners to construct a range of femtosecond QD-based lasers operating in the wavelength ranges of 1100–1300 nm and 550–650 nm. The £8 million project aims to build portable, low-cost and reliable sources for applications such as optical coherence tomography, nonlinear microscopy, nanosurgery and minimally invasive diagnostics/treatments.

“The ultimate goal of the FAST-DOT project is not only to produce new laser sources but also to access applications that are serviced by conventional, expensive, ultrafast solid-state lasers,” Maria Cataluna, a researcher at the University of Dundee, told optics.org. “The availability of compact and inexpensive ultrashort pulse lasers will make many applications more affordable, for example in healthcare, metrology, displays, micro- and nanomachining, and ultrafast spectroscopy.”

The FAST-DOT collaboration is headed up by the University of Dundee and is made up of seven industrial partners: Toptica, Philips, Alcatel Thales III-V Lab, Innolume, M Squared Lasers, Time Bandwidth and Molecular Machines and Industries. The remaining partners are European universities and academic institutions (see footnote).

Together, the partners will explore electrically pumped modelocked edge-emitting and vertical-extended-cavity-surface-emitted lasers (VECSELs) based on QDs.

“The project will also investigate ultra-compact high-power optically pumped VECSELs and QD-based semiconductor-saturable-absorber-mirrors (SESAMs), that exhibit lower saturation fluence than their quantum-well counterparts,” commented Cataluna.

The spectral band of the generated femtosecond pulses will be further extended into the UV/visible range by deploying non-linear crystals for efficient frequency conversion.

In the second project, the UK-based universities of Strathclyde, St Andrews, Edinburgh, and Imperial College London, join forces in a £3.8 million collaboration targeting organic and hybrid organic/ inorganic lasers for biosensing, communications and instrumentation.

This four-year project, funded by the UK's EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council), aims to build compact lasers operating at visible wavelengths. The hybrid lasers will employ an organic semiconductor structure, interfaced to control electronics using blue/green light-emitting diode technology.

“Our near-term goal is to produce components consisting of single-emitter organic lasers on blue LEDs in a form suitable for volume manufacture,” said Martin Dawson project coordinator. “Longer-term goals are to demonstrate optoelectronic interfaces and integrated circuits involving multiple laser and LED elements.”

• 11 academic partners make up the FAST-DOT project: University of Dundee and University of Sheffield both in the UK, ETH-Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Switzerland, Tampere University of Technology in Finland, KTH-Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden, ICFO-The Institute of Photonic Sciences in Spain, FORTH-The Foundation for Research and Technology in Greece, Vilnius University in Lithuania, Politecnico di Torino in Italy, University of Athens in Greece and the Technical University of Darmstadt in Germany.

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