Utlrashort pulse laser technology and applications development

Utlrashort pulse laser technology and applications development

For more than seven years, Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Crane Division has engaged in a highly successful transfer of ultrashort pulse laser technology that is yielding substantial commercial and military benefits. Ultrashort pulse lasers deliver electromagnetic pulses measured in femtoseconds, a time span so brief that the pulses alter the way light interacts with matter. One of the key attributes of these pulses is that, unlike conventional lasers, they produce no heat and do not damage the targeted material beyond the intended extent. This capability enables ultrashort pulse lasers to remove material more cleanly and precisely than ever before possible.

From their separate work with ultrashort pulse lasers, both in the laboratory and in partnership with industry, laser scientists Tim Bradley and Dr. Gerald Manke II were aware of the technology?s potential to meet numerous needs in a broad spectrum of defense and commercial applications. When they came together at NSWC Crane Division in 2006, they dedicated themselves to establishing a formal technology development and transfer program based on the promise of these lasers to meet these needs.

What has made this program so successful are Bradley?s and Dr. Manke?s commitment to the process, the breadth of outside partners, and the variety and number of technology transfer mechanisms employed. An Education Partnership Agreement with the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology allowed students to experiment with the laser in designated materials-processing applications. A Partnership Intermediary Agreement has established Pennsylvania State University?s Electro-Optics Center as a conduit through which ultrashort pulse laser technology and intellectual property moves smoothly into the Center?s consortium of electro-optics companies, laboratories, and universities. At least five Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs) have been established to help outside partners gain access to lasers and other specialized expertise, equipment, and facilities at NSWC Crane. All of these mechanisms were supported by nearly $16 million in more than 34 small business innovation research/small business technology transfer (SBIR/STTR) and other awards to support the work of small businesses engaged in the development, refinement, and commercialization of new ultrashort pulse laser applications.

To date, this ongoing, multi-year technology transfer activity has resulted in the startup of two new businesses and the development of novel applications in both the commercial and military sectors. Automotive fuel injectors are now being cut so precisely that they deliver 30-percent greater fuel efficiency; more precise eye surgery is being performed with less risk; and glass screens on consumer electronics are being made much stronger. Ultrashort pulse lasers also have many defense applications, most of which are classified, but include deterring enemy threats.

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Midwest