The University of Southampton

Stratophase laser targets lab users

Published: 22 February 2007

ORC spin-out company, Stratophase Ltd. have released a new family of wavelength-selectable infrared lasers targeted to fill the market gap in low-cost test and alignment systems.

Providing button-press access to wavelengths across the mid-infrared range, the StratoLase is a versatile alternative to swapping between expensive single wavelength lasers and has been specially designed for everyday use in a variety of science labs. Most importantly, the robust framework and user-friendly interface allows automatic control of the Optical Parametric Oscillator (OPO) at the heart of the system without the need to understand laser physics or nonlinear optics.

Stratophase’s first off-the-shelf laser system marks an evolution of their product line by building on the company’s world-class expertise in optical wavelength conversion crystals, which originate from the ORC.

‘It’s great to see technology and research developed at the ORC being used by real companies,’ comments Professor Peter Smith, ORC researcher and founder of Stratophase. ‘This is a longstanding project at the ORC and the strong relationship we have with Stratophase has allowed us to successfully transfer our ideas to new applications in the real world.’

Offering cost-effective access to a broad variety of wavelengths in the mid-infrared range (1.3-4.6µm), each StratoLase unit incorporates a proprietary nonlinear Periodically Poled Lithium Niobate (PPLN) chip designed to enable very high efficiency wavelength conversion and open new opportunities in imaging, ranging and spectroscopic applications.

First unveiled at the Photonics West 2007 Conference, StratoLase wavelength-selectable infra-red lasers are currently available via the international Thorlabs catalogue.

Stratophase co-founder, Dr. Corin Gawith comments; ‘This is an exciting time for us, combining our expertise in nonlinear crystals with the customer-friendly system design and marketing of Thorlabs. By offering simple, affordable systems in this way we hope to make our technology accessible to a much broader range of users and applications’.

Notes for editors

1. Stratophase Ltd. (www.stratophase.com) was spun-out of the University of Southampton in 2003 to commercialise optical planar technology developed at the university’s Optoelectronics Research Centre (ORC). Stratophase is VC funded and has raised £2.8m to date with the majority shareholding held in the US. Our business is backed by an extensive suite of IP, know-how and an experienced team consisting primarily of former members of the ORC. Stratophase's main products are wavelength conversion crystals and lasers using Periodically Poled Lithium Niobate (PPLN). These products are available as either standard or customised parts through the leading optical company Thorlabs (www.thorlabs.com). Stratophase are also developing new sensor technology for their next wave of growth.

2. PPLN is a very efficient nonlinear crystal that can be used to convert the output wavelength of a laser to different wavelengths, typically in the range of 400nm to 5000nm.

3. Optical Parametric Oscillator is a term used in nonlinear optics to describe an optical system built around a nonlinear crystal that is used to change the wavelength of an input laser. Such systems are typically developed as bespoke projects in research institutes, requiring significant expertise in the field. Alternative commercial systems are typically developed as wavelength converter boxes to be attached to the front of larger, more expensive laser systems.

4. The Optoelectronics Research Centre at the University of Southampton is one of the largest university-based research groups entirely devoted to optoelectronics in the world, and has maintained a position at the forefront of photonics research for over four decades. Its long and well established track record in the fields of optical fibre, lasers, waveguides, devices and optoelectronic materials has fostered innovation, enterprise, cross-boundary and multi-disciplinary activities. It has built strong links with industry, research institutions and universities around the world, from informal collaborations to large-scale funding. Several spin out companies, including Southampton Photonics plc, Stratophase Ltd, Mesophotonics Ltd and ChG Southampton Ltd, have commercialized the fruits of ORC research; while its extensive outreach programme has brought lasers and optical fibres into schools across the country.

5. The University of Southampton is a leading UK teaching and research institution with a global reputation for leading-edge research and scholarship. It is one of the UK's top 10 research universities, offering first-rate opportunities and facilities for study and research across a wide range of subjects in humanities, health, science and engineering. The University has around 20,000 students and over 5000 staff. Its annual turnover is in the region of £310 million.

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