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EU project GALACTIC develops supply chain for Alexandrite laser crystals

13 Apr 2020

Laser Zentrum Hannover and partners developing European source of space-qualified high-specification laser crystals.

In the EU project "High Performance Alexandrite Crystals and Coatings for High Power Space Applications" (known as GALACTIC), research body Laser Zentrum Hannover (LZH) says it wants to develop a “solely European supply chain for space-qualified high-performance laser crystals made of Alexandrite with the partners Optomaterials S.r.l. (Italy) and Altechna Coatings UAB (Lithuania).”

These laser crystals are expected to be used in a range of sensing applications earth observation satellites in space.

Laser systems in earth observation satellites generate data for the analysis of the earth's atmosphere and surface. So far, laser crystals made of neodymium-doped yttrium aluminum garnet (Nd:YAG) have been used. But the problem with this material is that the emitted wavelength of Nd:YAG crystals cannot be tuned.

Alexandrite crystals are tunable by their nature and also superior to Nd:YAG crystals in other basic properties such as thermal conductivity and breaking strength. Therefore, the European Space Agency is currently investigating whether these crystals can replace YAG crystals in the future.

European source

However, the prerequisite for this is the sufficient availability of space-qualified Alexandrite laser crystals. The USA still dominates the market for Alexandrite laser crystals, but these materials are already available as an industrial product in Europe.

The partners in the GALACTIC project now want to bring the Technology Readiness Level of European Alexandrite laser crystals for high-performance applications in space from currently TRL 4 to TRL 6.

At Level 4, a component or “breadboard” is laboratory-validated; Level 5 means a component/breadboard is validated in simulated or a real space environment; and a Level 6 rating means that system adequacy is validated in a simulated environment.

In the GALACTIC project, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH), together with Altechna Coatings UAB and Optomaterials S.r.l., wants to improve the process of crystal growing and post-treatment, develop novel coating concepts and manufacture a laser demonstrator.

In that way, an independent, solely European supply chain for Alexandrite laser crystals is to be set up.

The GALACTIC project is receiving funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No 870427.

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