The University of Southampton

Developing the laser sources of the future

Published: 6 August 2010

Although very broad span “supercontinuum” laser sources can deliver light across a wide range of visible colours, these sources do not currently extend into the mid-infrared region. There is a rapidly growing need for broad span sources in this mid-IR range for imaging and sensing applications but current technology limits the use of such sources to only a few laboratories. New research at the University of Southampton’s Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC) hopes to address this gap.

ORC Senior Research Fellow, Dr Jonathan Price, will work on developing more practical laser based mid-IR sources for the future following a £100K investment from the EPSRC.

Light in the mid-IR, which is beyond the range visible with the human eye, provides a key tool for the analysis of chemicals because different molecules show absorption “signatures” in this part of the spectrum.

Jonathan will test a range of novel glass based microstructured fibres fabricated at the ORC in order to identify the optimum glass and fibre geometry for targeting a wide range of wavelengths across the mid-IR.

It is hoped that this work will improve understanding of the continuum generation in the mid-IR leading to rapid progress with subsequent applications research. The initial experiments will probe the nonlinear and damage characteristics of the fibres using a range of pulse durations. Once suitable fibre designs have been identified the source should enable collaboration with experts working on the applications including chemical sensing, medical diagnostics and for developing advanced imaging techniques.

Jonathan comments: "I am delighted that the EPSRC are supporting this research to create brighter sources for the wide range of sensing and imaging applications in the mid-IR. The research builds on the Optoelectronics Research Centre’s world-leading capabilities and will use fibres from the state-of-the-art fabrication facilities in the new Mountbatten building."

More information about Jonathan's project can be found on the EPSRC website

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