TeraDiode’s laser can be used in metal cutting, welding, and other industrial/manufacturing settings.
A small company in Massachusetts has built what they believe is the most powerful direct-diode laser in the world. Their technology, developed at MIT, employs an optical system to couple multiple individual semiconductor laser beams into a single stronger one that rates at 1,000 W in a 200-?m fiber.
Direct-diode lasers are efficient, reliable, compact, and relatively low-cost, and are used extensively in the telecommunications and data storage industries. However, their low brightness because of power and beam quality limitations have limited them to only a few applications in industrial settings.
Attempts to improve these qualities of direct-diode lasers have resultant in various schemes to combine separate beamlines into a single, stronger pulse. TeraDiode's technology, wavelength beam combining, uses an evolution of previous approaches. The breakthrough may allow semiconductor lasers to break into new industrial and military defense applications.
Bob Yirka of Physorg.com reports on the technology:
Company CEO David Sossen says that the new laser breaks through the limiting factors that have held back the use of truly powerful lasers in all but manufacturing pursuits; namely, the inefficiencies and huge power appetites normally associated with powerful lasers, and can "output between several hundred and several thousand watts, and in principle up to 100 kW," all in a package that is smaller than other laser systems currently available.
The company makes clear it sees its new technology as not just a new tool for manufacturing, but as a future weapon that could be placed aboard a tank or ship in perhaps as few as five years. In the meantime, the company says it will be focusing on testing the new technology to see if it might be used in missile defense, such as connecting it to the back of a fighter plane to stymie the technology in heat-seeking weapons currently used in anti-aircraft missiles, or better yet, to simply destroy them.
An excerpt of Gregory T. Huang’s (Xconomy) more extensive report:
Lasers have been used in industrial applications for some 40 years. And the U.S. military has used lasers for decades, but in limited ways, because the devices tend to be bulky, inefficient (not enough power output), and prone to breakdown. To create a "directed energy weapon," for example, a conventional chemical-based laser would need to be about the size of a building.
Until now, the limiting factors for laser diodes have been power output and beam quality. "We've broken through that barrier," Sossen says, adding that his company's relatively compact lasers (which for commercial uses are a bit bigger than a breadbox but smaller than competing devices) can output between several hundred and several thousand watts, and in principle up to 100 kW (with a bigger laser)—enough power to do some real damage. And at different wavelengths, depending on the application.