Researchers use nano-particles to increase power, improve eye safety of fiber lasers | 3/26/2019 | Staff
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Scientists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory have devised a new process for using nano-particles to build powerful lasers that are more efficient and safer for your eyes.

They're doing it with what's called "rare-earth-ion-doped fiber." Put simply, it's laser light pumping a silica fiber that has been infused with rare earth ions of holmium. According to Jas S. Sanghera, who heads the Optical Materials and Devices Branch, they have achieved an 85 percent efficiency with their new process.

Ions - Core - Fiber - Action - Sanghera

"Doping just means we're putting rare earth ions into the core of the fiber, which is where all the action happens," Sanghera explained. "That's how we've produced this world record efficiency, and it's what we need for a high-energy, eye-safer laser."

According to Colin Baker, research chemist with the Optical Materials and Devices Branch, the lasing process relies on a pump source—most often another laser—which excites the rare earth ions, which then emit photons to produce a high quality light for lasing at the desired wavelength.

Process - Penalty - Baker - Percent - Efficient

"But this process has a penalty," Baker said. "It's never 100 percent efficient. What you're putting in is pump energy, not the high quality light at the wavelength you want. What's coming out is a much higher quality of light at the specific wavelength that you want, but the remaining energy that isn't converted into laser light is wasted and converted into heat."

That loss of energy, Baker said, ultimately limits power scaling and the quality of the laser light, which makes efficiency especially important.

Aid - 'dopant - Percent - Level - Efficiency

With the aid of a nano-particle 'dopant,' they're able to achieve the 85 percent level of efficiency with a laser that operates at a 2 microns wavelength, which is considered an "eye-safer" wavelength, rather than the traditional 1 micron. Of course, Baker pointed out, no laser can be said to be safe when it comes to...
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