Laser sets records in power and energy efficiency

Jul 24, 2007

The rise in global terrorism in recent years has brought significant attention to the needs for more advanced sensors and defense technologies to protect civilians and soldiers.

Next-generation laser-based defense systems are now being designed for this need, including the use of infrared countermeasures to protect aircraft from heat-seeking missiles and highly sensitive chemical detectors for reliable early detection of trace explosives and other toxins at a safe distance for personnel.

Since practical systems must be easily portable by a soldier, aircraft or unmanned vehicle, they must be lightweight, compact and power efficient. In addition, such systems also would need to be widely deployable and available to all soldiers, airplanes and public facilities, which requires a low production and operating cost. While several types of lasers exist today that can emit at the desired infrared wavelengths, none of these lasers meet the above requirements because they are either too expensive, not mass-producible, too fragile or require power-hungry and inefficient cryogenic refrigeration.

A new type of semiconductor-based laser, called the Quantum Cascade Laser (QCL), may soon change this situation. Like their computer chip cousins, semiconductors lasers are inherently compact and suitable for mass production, which has led to their widespread and low-cost use in everyday products, including CD and DVD players.

The Center for Quantum Devices (CQD) at Northwestern University, led by Manijeh Razeghi, Walter P. Murphy Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, has recently made great strides in laser design, material growth and laser fabrication that have greatly increased the output power and wall-plug efficiency (the ability to change electrical power into light) of QCLs.

The CQD now has demonstrated individual lasers, 300 of which can easily fit on a penny, emitting at wavelengths of 4.5 microns, capable of producing over 700 milli-Watts of continuous output power at room temperature and more than one Watt of output power at lower temperatures.

Furthermore, these lasers are extremely efficient in converting electricity to light, having a 10 percent wall-plug efficiency at room temperature and more than 18 percent wall-plug efficiency at lower temperatures. This represents a factor of two increase in laser performance, which is far superior to any competing laser technology at this wavelength.

Source: Northwestern University

Explore further: Could 'Jedi Putter' be the force golfers need?

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Physicists create new nanoparticle for cancer therapy

30 minutes ago

A University of Texas at Arlington physicist working to create a luminescent nanoparticle to use in security-related radiation detection may have instead happened upon an advance in photodynamic cancer therapy.

High power laser sources at exotic wavelengths

Apr 14, 2014

High power laser sources at exotic wavelengths may be a step closer as researchers in China report a fibre optic parametric oscillator with record breaking efficiency. The research team believe this could ...

Gaza cops trade bullets for laser-tech in training

Apr 14, 2014

Security forces in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip are using technology to practice shooting on laser simulators, saving money spent on ammunition in the cash-strapped Palestinian territory.

Recommended for you

Could 'Jedi Putter' be the force golfers need?

Apr 18, 2014

Putting is arguably the most important skill in golf; in fact, it's been described as a game within a game. Now a team of Rice engineering students has devised a training putter that offers golfers audio, ...

Better thermal-imaging lens from waste sulfur

Apr 17, 2014

Sulfur left over from refining fossil fuels can be transformed into cheap, lightweight, plastic lenses for infrared devices, including night-vision goggles, a University of Arizona-led international team ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Poll: Big Bang a big question for most Americans

Few Americans question that smoking causes cancer. But they have more skepticism than confidence in global warming, the age of the Earth and evolution and have the most trouble believing a Big Bang created the universe 13.8 ...

Making graphene in your kitchen

Graphene has been touted as a wonder material—the world's thinnest substance, but super-strong. Now scientists say it is so easy to make you could produce some in your kitchen.