MADISON, Wis., Oct. 7 -- Alfalight Inc., a manufacturer of high-power diode lasers, has been awarded $3.9 million in research and development funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the central research and development organization for the United States Department of Defense, under the DARPA Super High-Efficiency Diode Source (SHEDS) program, with options that could result in a total $5.3 million award. The SHEDS program will investigate innovative approaches that enable revolutionary advances in semiconductor diode laser bar efficiency.
Currently, diode bar-pumped solid state laser systems have an overall electrical-to-optical power conversion efficiency, or "wall plug" efficiency, as low as 10 percent. This means that a 100-kW laser, for example, would require 1,000 kWs of electrical power and would produce 900 kWs of heat. This heat significantly limits system performance and reliability. The wall plug efficiency of the semiconductor diode lasers used in this type of system is the largest contributor to overall system wall plug efficiency, and improving the efficiency of the semiconductor diode laser will greatly increase the possible output power and reliability of these laser systems, Alfalight said. Alfalight said its aluminum free active-region (ALFA) diode laser bars achieve over 50 pecent wall plug efficiency. The goal of the SHEDS program is to increase diode laser wall plug efficiency to 65 percent in the first 18 months of the project, with a target of 80 percent in the following 18 months.
Alfalight makes diode laser solutions for industrial, defense and telecommunications applications. The Madison, Wis.-based company was founded in November of 1998 with technologies developed at the Reed Center of Photonics, an engineering research center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.