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Lasers in Manufacturing
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The Lead

Laser “lightning rods” channel electricity through thin air

August 19, 2014 8:49 am | News | Comments

By zapping the air with a pair of powerful laser bursts, researchers at the Univ. of Arizona have created highly focused pathways that can channel electricity through the atmosphere. The new technique can potentially direct an electrical discharge up to 10 m away or more, shattering previous distance records for transmitting electricity through air. It also raises the intriguing possibility of one day channeling lightning with laser power.

A transistor-like amplifier for single photons

July 28, 2014 11:19 am | by Olivia Meyer-Streng, Max Planck Institute | News | Comments

With the help of ultracold quantum gas, physicists...

First direct-diode laser bright enough to cut, weld metal

July 23, 2014 9:43 am | by Rob Matheson, MIT News Office | News | Comments

MIT Lincoln Laboratory spinout TeraDiode is commercializing a multi-kilowatt diode laser system...

Researchers develop efficient approach to manufacture 3-D metal parts

June 16, 2014 2:12 pm | by Kenneth Ma, LLNL | News | Comments

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers have developed a new and more efficient...

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Tiny laser-powered sensor-on-a-chip tests chemical composition of liquids

June 11, 2014 7:51 am | News | Comments

Simple solid-state lasers consist of only one material. But quantum cascade lasers are made of a perfectly optimized layer system of different materials so the wavelength of the laser can be tuned. Now a method has been developed in Austria to create a laser and a detector at the same time, on one single chip, in such a way that the wavelength of the laser perfectly matches the wavelength to which the detector is sensitive.

A new way to make laser-like beams using 250x less power

June 6, 2014 9:03 am | News | Comments

With precarious particles called polaritons that straddle the worlds of light and matter, Univ. of Michigan researchers have demonstrated a new, practical and potentially more efficient way to make a coherent laser-like beam. They have made what's believed to be the first polariton laser that is fueled by electrical current as opposed to light, and also works at room temperature, rather than way below zero.

Team demonstrates continuous terahertz sources at room temperature

June 5, 2014 11:47 am | News | Comments

The potential of terahertz waves has yet to be reached because they are difficult to generate and manipulate. Current sources are large devices that require complex vacuum, lasers and cooling systems. A Northwestern Univ. team is the first to produce terahertz radiation in a simplified system. Their room-temperature, compact, continuous terahertz radiation source is six times more efficient than previous systems.

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New laser sensing technology could support self-driving cars, smartphone tech

May 29, 2014 11:50 am | News | Comments

A new twist on 3-D imaging technology could one day enable your self-driving car to spot a child in the street half a block away or play “virtual tennis” on your driveway. The new system, developed by researchers at the Univ. of California, Berkeley, can remotely sense objects across distances as long as 30 feet, 10 times farther than what could be done with comparable current low-power laser systems.

Laser system mimics sunlight to test solar cell efficiency

May 28, 2014 10:34 am | News | Comments

Researchers at NIST have developed a laser-based instrument that generates artificial sunlight to help test solar cell properties and find ways to boost their efficiency. The novel NIST system simulates sunlight well across a broad spectrum of visible to infrared light. More flexible than conventional solar simulators, the laser instrument can be focused down to a small beam spot and shaped to match any desired spectral profile.

Study: Perovskite solar cells can double as lasers

March 28, 2014 10:50 am | News | Comments

New research on perovskite-based solar cells pioneered in the U.K. suggests that they can double up as a laser as well as photovoltaic device. By sandwiching a thin layer of the lead halide perovskite between two mirrors, the Univ. of Cambridge team produced an optically driven laser which proves these cells “show very efficient luminescence”, with up to 70% of absorbed light re-emitted.

Micro systems with big commercial potential featured in SPIE journal

March 26, 2014 9:28 am | News | Comments

Commercial demand is driving high-tech research and development in micro-optoelectromechanical systems (MOEMS) for diverse applications such as space exploration, wireless systems, and healthcare. A new special section on Emerging MOEMS Technology and Applications in the current issue of the Journal of Micro/Nanolithography, MEMS, and MOEMS discusses these recent breakthrough achievements.

Materials experts create spintronic thermoelectric power generators

March 21, 2014 2:18 pm | News | Comments

Imagine a computer so efficient that it can recycle its own waste heat to produce electricity. While such an idea may seem far-fetched today, significant progress has already been made to realize these devices. Researchers at the Univ. of Utah have fabricated spintronics-based thin film devices which do just that, converting even minute waste heat into useful electricity.

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Lightweight construction materials achieve high stability

March 21, 2014 2:07 pm | News | Comments

Inspired by the framework structure of bones and the shell structure of bees’ honeycombs, researchers in Germany have developed microstructured lightweight construction materials of extremely high stability. Although its density is below that of water, the material’s stability relative to its weight exceeds that of massive materials, such as high-performance steel or aluminum. It was created using 3-D laser writing.

A cavity that you want

February 25, 2014 4:53 pm | by Cory Nealon, Univ. of Buffalo | News | Comments

Associated with unhappy visits to the dentist, “cavity” means something else in the science of optics. An arrangement of mirrors that allows beams of light to circulate in closed paths, or cavities, help us build laser and optical fibers. Now, a research team pushed the concept further by developing an optical “nanocavity” that boosts the amount of light that ultrathin semiconductors absorb.

A step closer to the photonic future

February 20, 2014 3:01 am | News | Comments

Photonic devices are typically built using customized methods that make them difficult and expensive to manufacture. But at the Optical Fiber Communication Conference and Exposition next month, two new devices, a modulator and a tunable filter, are being presented that are not only as energy-efficient as some of the best devices around, but were built using standard CMOS process technology.

Researchers build world’s most powerful terahertz laser chip

February 18, 2014 10:08 am | News | Comments

One of the main challenges for engineers trying to make practical terahertz wave devices is making the lasers powerful and compact enough to be useful. Engineers in the U.K. have reported their new quantum cascade terahertz laser exceeds 1 W output power. The new record more than doubles landmarks set by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and subsequently by a team from Vienna last year.

World’s first continuous-wave, tunable diamond Raman lasers

January 31, 2014 12:13 pm | News | Comments

Scientists at the Univ. of Strathclyde, U.K., have successfully demonstrated two notable high-power laser research developments: the first ever tunable diamond Raman laser and the first continuous-wave (CW) laser. Both lasers use synthetic diamond material made by California’s Element Six. The breakthrough is a significant achievement in solid-state laser engineering.

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Laser-induced damage in focus

January 17, 2014 8:49 am | News | Comments

The most efficient way to convert light into different wavelengths for use in spectroscopy or laser applications is to use nonlinear optical crystals, but these tend to suffer crystal damage at high laser intensities. Oleg Louchev of the RIKEN Center in Japan and colleagues have discovered that such crystal damage arises from small localized temperature rises due to photon absorption and electric field effects within the crystal.

Scientists line up unruly gas molecules for x-rays

December 19, 2013 8:25 pm | by Glenn Roberts Jr., SLAC's Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) | News | Comments

It's hard to study individual molecules in a gas because they tumble around chaotically and never sit still. Researchers in California overcame this challenge by using a laser to point them in the same general direction, like compass needles responding to a magnet, so they could be more easily studied with an x-ray laser. It’s a key step toward producing movies that show how a single molecule changes during a chemical reaction.

Ultra-short pulse laser delivers controlled ablation to industrial settings

December 19, 2013 7:36 pm | News | Comments

Ultra-short laser pulses provide a fast and precise way of processing a wide range of materials without excessive heat input. Scientists from Bosch, TRUMPF, Jena Univ. and Fraunhofer Institute in Germany have turned the ultra-short pulse laser into an effective series-production tool. This type of laser can remove, or ablate, tiny areas measuring just a few nanometers.

Sharpening the focus in quantum photolithography

December 17, 2013 8:52 am | News | Comments

Photolithography uses light beams to design thin geometric patterns on the substrates of semiconductors used in microelectronic devices, but the phenomenon of light diffraction does not permit highly accurate patterns. A new quantum lithography protocol from a scientist in Russia now makes it possible to improve the accuracy of photolithography by addressing its physical limitations.

New terahertz generator features the highest signal quality

December 17, 2013 12:34 am | News | Comments

Researchers in Spain, working with the firm Luz WaveLabs, are developing an innovative terahertz generator that improves signal quality by one million times as compared to the best device of this kind currently on the market. They have achieved this level of quality through the use, in part, of a specialized optical frequency comb and modifications to the laser source.

Historic demonstration proves laser communication possible

October 28, 2013 3:12 pm | News | Comments

In the early morning hours of Oct. 18, NASA’s Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration made history, transmitting data from lunar orbit to Earth at a rate of 622Mbps. That download rate is more than six times faster than previous state-of-the-art radio systems flown to the moon.

Graphene can emit laser flashes

October 25, 2013 10:36 am | News | Comments

The direct emission of terahertz radiation would be useful in science, but no laser has yet been developed which can provide it. A team headed of researchers have now demonstrated that graphene meets an important condition for use in novel lasers for terahertz pulses with long wavelengths: It permits population inversion, a key prerequisite for stimulated radiation emission.

NIST measures laser power with portable scale

October 24, 2013 12:41 pm | News | Comments

Researchers have demonstrated a new method for measuring laser power by reflecting the light off a mirrored scale, which behaves as a force detector. Although it may sound odd, the technique is promising as a simpler, faster, less costly and more portable alternative to conventional methods of calibrating high-power lasers used in manufacturing, the military and research.

Researchers develop compact, high-power terahertz source at room temperature

October 10, 2013 8:38 am | News | Comments

Terahertz radiation is gaining attention due to its many applications. Traditional methods of generating terahertz radiation, however, usually involve large and expensive instruments, some of which also require cryogenic cooling. A compact terahertz source operating at room temperature with high power has been a dream device in the terahertz community for decades. A team from Northwestern Univ. has now brought this dream closer to reality.

Laser spectroscopy helps measure progress in nanotech design

September 4, 2013 11:24 am | News | Comments

Measuring the band offset faced by electrons jumping from one material to another is a key component of a nanoscale design process because it guides redesign and prototyping. Current methods don’t work on the nanoscale, however. Using laser-induced current in a nanowire device and its dependence on the wavelength of the laser, a team at Drexel Univ. devised a new method to derive the band offset.

Space laser to prove increased broadband possible

August 29, 2013 12:07 pm | by Dewayne Washington, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center | News | Comments

When NASA’s Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD) begins operation aboard the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE), it will attempt to show two-way laser communication beyond Earth is possible, expanding the possibility of transmitting huge amounts of data. This new ability could one day allow for 3-D high-definition video transmissions in deep space to become routine.

Small chip to advance the art of drug testing

August 27, 2013 2:43 pm | by Kurt Pfitzer, Lehigh Univ. | News | Comments

Standard drug-testing methods have shortcomings. Animal testing is expensive and unreliable, and the static environment of cells and cultures don’t mimic the behavior of the entire organism. An interdisciplinary research team at Lehigh Univ. is using microscopy and optical tweezers to develop a new finger-sized chip that can study the activities of cells at the nanoscale, possibly offering an alternative to traditional drug testing.

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