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14 April 2009


DARPA selects Pranalytica to develop beam combining for high-power QCL arrays

Pranalytica Inc of Santa Monica, CA, USA, which manufactures quantum cascade lasers and laser-based trace gas detection equipment for industrial, environmental, military, and security applications, has been selected by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) program to participate in Phase I of the Beam Combining of High Power Quantum Cascade Laser (QCL) Arrays project for the US Army Aviation and Missile Command (AMCOM).

The project was created to fill the need of the Department of Defense (DoD) for directional infrared countermeasures (DIRCM), advanced stand-off chemical sensors, and laser radar (LADAR). Potential non-military applications include DIRCM protection of civilian airliners from shoulder-fired missiles, detection of toxic industrial gases, and atmospheric pollution monitoring.

“Pranalytica is committed to providing breakthrough technologies and applications to enhance the capabilities and safety of our troops in today’s dynamic and high-tech wartime environments,” says founder, president & CEO Dr C. Kumar N. Patel. “Beam combining of high-power quantum cascade laser arrays is a step forward in protecting airborne assets from shoulder-fired missiles (also called man-portable air-defense systems, MANPADS), detecting harmful elements in the field, and creating a virtual picture of the combat area. All these applications help produce a safer and more secure environment,” he adds.

The SBIR’s first phase aims to demonstrate high-power QCL arrays while maintaining good beam quality. Specifically, Phase I calls for fabricating thermoelectrically cooled lasers with an average power of 200mW and at least 4% wall-plug efficiency (WPE), and planning for combining them into an 1W module. Phase II calls for extending the approach to average power levels of more than 5W.

“Pranalytica has already developed a 3 Watt continuous-wave room-temperature laser running at over 10% WPE, which dramatically exceeds Phase I goals, and is in principle already able to satisfy the literal Phase II goals with simple polarization beam combining of only two QLCs,” says Patel. “However, we will fulfill the spirit of the SBIR and combine multiple high-power emitters, thus providing various DoD components with an extensible method of creating very high-power QCL modules, exceeding 10 Watts,” he adds.

Pranalytica claims to be the world’s only supplier of complete, fully packaged, turnkey high-power QCL systems. As an integrated laser structure and system designer and manufacturer, it offers in-house capabilites to improve and modify its standard systems to meet diverse customer requirements, starting with the fundamental QCL design through to system-level issues.

*Pranalytica is exhibiting at this week’s 2009 Defense, Security, and Sensing conference in Orlando, FL, USA (13–17 April).

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