IN THIS SECTION
Future changing research...
Twenty-ten marked the 50th anniversary of the laser and also the 25th anniversary of the fibre laser, pioneered at the University of Southampton in the 1980s when our scientists integrated lasers into optical fibres.
The fibre laser was “born” following the development of the optical telecoms fibre amplifier by David Payne and his team in 1985. Its origins lie in the same silica fibre that powers the internet, and when it was first unveiled, its revolutionary technology was regarded as being 15 years ahead of its time.
Today, fibre lasers are used widely in telecommunications, manufacturing, medicine and science. The technology has multiple applications worldwide, ranging from cutting steel, making cars and date-stamping fruit, to clearing landmines. It is also used daily by those of us working online for amplifying signals on the web.
“The fibre laser challenges views on how to make things, how to repair things, and how to destroy things,” says David, now Director of the Optoelectronics Research Centre. “It is changing every industry and discipline it encounters.”
The strengths of fibre lasers lie in their stability, their beam quality, and the fact that they can achieve very high levels of power. They are also far more efficient than other lasers in their use of energy.
Looking ahead to the next 50 years, our researchers will show how laser technology can be applied to new challenges, such as healthcare diagnostics and treatment, increasing internet capacity and creating renewable energy sources.
Examples of fibre laser use in industry:
Saving lives: manufacturing cardiovascular stents
Fibre lasers have the capability to accurately cut materials from as thin as a human hair to as thick as an inch of steel, making them the ideal cutting tool for a range of industries.
The tiny laser spot size enables the cutting or micromachining of intricate features in thin materials. This capability makes fibre lasers ideal for the manufacture of cardiovascular stents, which have very thin metal webbed walls.
Cardiovascular stents are a life-saving device that is inserted into narrowed coronary arteries to allow the normal flow of blood and oxygen to the heart following balloon angioplasty.
Driving forward: benefiting the car industry
Fibre lasers provide a compact, robust and highly energy efficient solution for a wide range of manufacturing applications.
Fibre laser welders for example are now used in the day-to-day assembly of car bodies, exploiting their ability to operate reliably at high power whilst welding with great precision.
Other fibre lasers are also being used further down the production line to cut and mark plastics for sound proofing, airbags and interior trims. Fibre lasers are very low maintenance which saves both time and money in the production of cars.
Copyright University of Southampton 2006