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Bochum to develop new ultrafast laser for materials processing

22 Aug 2023

Lead researcher Clara Saraceno to bring new kind of laser to market – supported by ERC grant.

Femtosecond lasers can be used to create high-precision microstructures, such as those needed for smart phone displays and diverse automotive technology applications.

Professor Clara Saraceno from Ruhr University Bochum, Germany, is aiming to develop and introduce a cheaper and more efficient laser technology to the market.

She has just been awarded a proof-of-concept grant amounting to 150,000 euros from the European Research Council (ERC). Her project, entitled Ultrafast 2.1 µm Holmium Lasers for GHz ablation (“Giga2u”) is set to run for 18 months.

Faster and more efficient

Standard femtosecond lasers emit light pulses with wavelengths of one micrometer and a duration in the hundreds of femtosecond range. The energy per pulse is high, and the systems are expensive.

“New lasers that are faster and more efficient, while generating lower costs, could be a key technology for the market,” commented Saraceno, who is head of Bochum’s Photonics and Ultrafast Laser Science group.

Saraceno is currently developing femtosecond lasers that operate at wavelengths of 2.1 microns and with repetition frequencies in the gigahertz regime.

Such sources will require less energy and are potentially more reliable than the shorter wavelength systems currently deployed in industry. They also promise lower costs and faster production speeds. So far, however, the systems have only been used for research applications, such as spectroscopy.

Testing the market

The “Giga2u” proof-of-concept grant is intended to demonstrate the potential of the technology for industrial applications. Such a system would be of interest primarily for processing glass and polymers, but also for ablating aqueous tissues. The latter could be useful for future directions in laser surgery application.

The researchers headed by Saraceno hope to develop a compact and stable laser prototype and explore the technology’s market potential. In the process, the group also intends to lay the groundwork for establishing a start-up.

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