Lasers with a wavelength of two microns could move the boundaries of surgery and molecule detection. Researchers at EPFL have managed to generate such lasers using a simple and inexpensive method
In recent years, two-micron lasers (0.002 millimetre) have been of growing interest among researchers. In the areas of surgery and molecule detection, for example, they offer significant advantages compared to traditional, shorter-wavelength lasers.
However, two-micron lasers are still in their infancy and not yet as mature as their telecom counterparts (1.55-micron). Moreover sources currently used in labs are typically bulky and expensive. Optical fibre-based 2 micron lasers are an elegant solution to these issues. This is where researchers at Photonics Systems Laboratory (PHOSL) come in.
In an article published in Light: Science & Applications, the team of Camille Brès at EPFL described a way to design these lasers at a lower cost, by changing the way optical fibres are connected to each other.
Thanks to the new configuration, they were able not only to produce very good 2 micron lasers, but also to do without an expensive and complex component that is normally required.
Bloodless surgery and long-range molecule détection
Two-micron spectral domain has potential applications in medicine, environmental sciences and industry. At these wavelengths, the laser light is easily absorbed by water molecules, which are the main constituents of human tissue.
In the realm of high precision surgery, they can be used to target water molecules during an operation and make incisions in very small areas of tissue without penetrating deeply. What is more, the energy from the laser causes the blood to coagulate on the wound, which prevents bleeding.
Two-micron lasers are also very useful for detecting key meteorological data over long distances through the air. Not to mention that they are highly effective in the processing of various industrial materials.
Replacing a cop with a detour
To create a 2 micron fibre-laser, light is usually injected into an optical-fibre ring containing a gain region which amplifies 2 micron light. The light circulates in the ring, passing through the gain region many times thus gaining more and more power, until becoming a laser. For optimal operation, these systems include a costly component called isolator, which forces the light to circulate in a single direction.
At PHOSL, researchers built a thulium-doped fibre laser that works without an isolator. Their idea was to connect the fibres differently, to steer light instead of stopping it.
"We plug a kind of deviation that redirects the light heading in the wrong direction, putting it back on track", said Camille Brès. This means no more need for the isolator, whose job is to stop light moving in the wrong direction, sort of like a traffic cop. "We replaced the traffic cop with a detour," said Svyatoslav Kharitonov, the article's lead author.
Higher quality laser
The new system not only proved to be less expensive than more traditional ones, it also showed it could generate a higher quality laser light. The explanation is as follows: the laser output gets purified because light interacts with itself in a very special way, thanks to the amplifying fibre's composition and dimensions, and the high power circulating in this atypical laser architecture.
"While the association of amplifying fibres and high power usually weakens traditional lasers performance, it actually improves the quality of this laser, thanks to our specific architecture", said Svyatoslav Kharitonov.
Publication: Light: Science & Applications, Isolator-free unidirectional thulium doped fibre laser
Camille Bres | EurekAlert!
Etching Microstructures with Lasers
25.10.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Lasertechnik ILT
Applying electron beams to 3-D objects
23.09.2016 | Fraunhofer-Institut für Organische Elektronik, Elektronenstrahl- und Plasmatechnik FEP
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy