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2 August 2006


QinetiQ-led consortium wins contract for mid-infrared lasers

A consortium of eight partners led by QinetiQ has been awarded £1m in funding from the UK government's Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to develop mid-infrared (MIR) semiconductor lasers with a wide range of
potential commercial applications.

Mid-infrared lasers operate at wavelengths in the range 3-5 microns, opening up the prospect of a range of new opportunities in healthcare, environmental monitoring, manufacturing, and free-space communications.  Potential
healthcare applications include the treatment of prostate and cornea disorders and the development of a new instrument for medical imaging at the nanoscale that could be used for stem-cell identification and the early detection of cancer.

Until now the commercial potential of MIR lasers has been limited because they require cooling to minus 200 degrees Celsius using expensive mechanical cooling techniques, says QinetiQ.  The consortium will use strained-layer
engineering to develop a new laser with a highly efficient active region that can operate close to room temperature without the need for expensive cooling.

The programme "has the potential to revolutionize the use of mid-infrared lasers, transforming them from a niche role to a pervasive technology," said programme leader Tim Ashley from QinetiQ.  "The three year programme has a
strong commercial focus, with the emphasis on testing prototype lasers in real systems to validate potential system improvements," he adds.

In addition to managing the consortium, QinetiQ will lead on the development of semiconductor material and device fabrication technology. Ring-laser expertise will be provided by Lancaster University, which has developed a novel whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonator. The theoretical modelling of semiconductor lasers will be conducted by Surrey University.

The consortium has a strong commercial focus, with the Centre for Integrated Photonics of Ipswich, UK deploying its experience on optical communication laser design and fabrication and UK-based Cablefree Solutions testing
prototype lasers in free-space optical communications systems. Process analyser manufacturer Procal Analytics will optimise laser devices for compact remote gas sensing instruments, which BP will field-test in the petro-chemical industry environment.  Finally, local thermal analysis
equipment supplier Anasys Instruments will test laser devices in a photo-thermal biomedical imaging system.

Visit QinetiQ: http://www.QinetiQ.com

Visit Ciphotonics: http://www.ciphotonics.com

Visit Cablefree: http://www.cablefree.co.uk

Visit Procal: http://www.procal.com

Visit Anasys: http://www.anasysinstruments.com