The University of Southampton

Developing high power two-micron fibre lasers

Published: 4 February 2013

The University of Southampton’s Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) is part of an international consortium investigating the development of two-micron fibre lasers. 

The Integrated Disruptive Components for 2µm Fibre Lasers (ISLA) project has received €2.9m funding from the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme to develop the fibre and component technology for high power two-micron fibre lasers opening up the prospect of whole new areas of laser applications. 

Currently state-of-the-art one micron fibre lasers have had a tremendous impact on many areas of laser technology from cutting steel to medical and sensing applications. However, the upper limits of one micron lasers are fast being reached as the extreme optical intensity in the fibre core approaches the fundamental limits of the glass. 

The ISLA project will develop high power fibre lasers operating in the two-micron wavelength band allowing the fibre core size to be increased leading to the possibility of a huge increase in laser power before the fundamental limits are reached. 

They believe that two micron fibre lasers will offer a clear route to higher power with excellent beam quality. Moreover, these lasers can be built using established silica fibre technology. 

“There are many potential advantages to two micron radiation,” said Professor Andy Clarkson, of the ORC. 

• The maximum permissible exposure for the human eye is many times greater for two micron compared to one micron laser radiation reducing the need for expensive safety measures in the industrial environment. 

• Cutting and processing transparent plastics is greatly improved as they absorb two micron radiation better than one micron. 

• Many bio-medical applications including laser scalpels, glaucoma treatment and skin wrinkle reduction are being investigated. 

The ORC is working with Trinity College, Dublin; Oclaro, in Switzerland; Rofin-Sinar Laser, in Germany; Time-Bandwidth Products, in Switzerland; and Vivid Components, in Germany. The project is led by Gooch and Housego, in Torquay, UK and is due to run until the end of September 2014. 

The project has also set up an ISLA Advisory Group (IAG) that aims to build relations between organisations with an interest in two micron lasers. Already the IAG has attracted significant attention from more than 50 organisations showing the growing commercial and academic interest in the development of two micron fibre laser technology.

Contact Professor Andy Clarkson to find out more. 

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