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27 August 2007


ESA development contract for Intense 808nm high-power laser diode arrays

Intense Ltd of Glasgow, UK has announced a new R&D contract called PULSAR (PUmp Laser Stacks with Aerospace Reliability) with the European Space Agency of Noordwijk, The Netherlands for the development of reliable, high-power, high-efficiency laser diode arrays for solid-state laser pumping applications in space.

The focus of the program, which will run for two and a half years, is to improve both the reliability and efficiency of laser diode stacks emitting at a wavelength of 808nm. The arrays will target a power of 1.2kW under pulsed operation with an electro-optical conversion efficiency of 65% (unachievable with existing technology).

The increased efficiency should enable considerable power savings aboard space vehicles and reduce heat removal requirements, says Intense, because a smaller fraction of the input energy will be converted into heat. The pumping efficiency can be increased further if the array’s emission spectrum is narrowed and stabilized using volume Bragg gratings. Their integration with the laser diode arrays will be assessed in cooperation with a US manufacturer, adds Intense.

The high-efficiency laser arrays will be manufactured to a demanding lifetime specification of 12 billion shots in a space environment. Intense’s patented quantum well intermixing (QWI) technology, which allows passive waveguides to be created near the laser diode’s mirrors, should ensure that the device is more robust against radiation damage.

“QWI technology is particularly suited to space-borne applications, as it produces laser diodes with increased radiation hardness,” says professor John Marsh, chief technology officer. “We are optimistic we can achieve these ambitious targets, based on the success of the DARPA-funded SHEDS initiative in the USA, where laser efficiency was improved by over 20% at longer wavelengths,” he adds. “Once developed, the PULSAR opportunity will enable further advances in Intense’s capabilities at 808nm, benefiting the entire HERMES high-power laser products family.”

“The European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC), a division of the European Space Agency, is anxious to improve the efficiency and reliability of laser array pumps in future satellite missions,” says Dr Michael Jost, ESTEC’s Technical Officer in charge of the contract. “There is a steady increase in the number of payloads incorporating powerful laser sources for applications such as atmospheric sensing, altimetry or optical communication - to name just a few. Enhancing the reliability and efficiency of pump laser diodes will enable a reduction in the implementation of redundancy and allow for an extended operational lifetime of the payload.”

See related items:

Intense launches high-power, single-mode 830nm diode lasers

Intense launches Nd:YAG-replacement and eye-safe range-finding diode lasers

Intense acquires High Power Devices Inc

Intense launches high-power laser diodes, bars, and stacks for industrial, medical and defense applications