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DARPA Seeks Ultrafast Laser Science Proposals

ARLINGTON, Va., Aug. 13, 2012 — DARPA is looking to fund projects to develop ultrafast laser applications including microwave generation, optical time transfer, laser-driven secondary radiation generation and attosecond science through its Pulse (Program in Ultrafast Laser Science and Engineering) basic research program.

Advances in ultrafast pulsed lasers operating at optical wavelengths could benefit biomedical imaging, threat detection and more: The technology could coherently link radar on Navy ships at sea, improving the systems' range and resolution, allowing them to identify more distant objects and characterize them with greater reliability; it also could be used in a tabletop x-ray imager that could image not only single cells but also the structures within, providing invaluable 3-D information to test responses to drugs and discover new treatments.

DARPA seeks to control the entire electromagnetic spectrum by using frequency combs to generate and engineer waves in the optical domain and then down- or up-convert those waveforms to desired wavelengths. Such technologies could provide applications relevant to national security, such as low phase noise microwave oscillators for secure communications, explosives and chemical agent detection, and imaging electron motion in complex materials.

DARPA wants to fund projects to develop ultrafast laser applications through its Pulse (Program in Ultrafast Laser Science and Engineering) basic research program. The research will benefit a wide range of applications. (Image: DARPA)

Although many of the techniques underlying these applications have been demonstrated, they are not currently suitable for practical use because they are restricted to a laboratory setting.

DARPA’s Pulse program aims to enable synchronization, metrology and communications applications for the Department of Defense by advancing compact, high-power and environmentally insensitive frequency comb technology as well as the science that underlies these applications. To achieve these goals, researchers across a broad spectrum of disciplines are needed. Potential applicants are encouraged to review and respond to the Pulse Broad Agency Announcement (BAA).

Under the program, DARPA will pursue enabling technologies to reduce comb size, and to explore how to capitalize on the high intensity obtainable from pulsed lasers for applications such as x-ray imaging.

“Pulse is a basic research program initially focused on component technology,” said Jamil Abo-Shaeer, program manager for Pulse. “Our primary concern isn’t demonstrating a specific application, rather making these tools a reality at a practical scale by overcoming current obstacles like size and thermal management. The range of potential applications is enormous.”

Pulse will accept proposals from both US and international researchers. The program is expected to span five years.

Details of the BAA can be reviewed at: Proposal abstracts are due by Sept. 6, with full proposals due by Nov. 6.

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