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Intense to Make ESA Arrays
Aug 2007
GLASGOW, Scotland, Aug. 28, 2007 -- Semiconductor laser maker Intense Ltd. announced it has a new contract with the European Space Agency (ESA)  to develop high-power, high-efficiency laser diode arrays for solid-state laser pumping applications in space.

The program, called PULSAR (pump laser stacks with aerospace reliability), aims to improve the reliability and efficiency of laser diode stacks at the 808-nm wavelength. The arrays will target a power of 1.2k W under pulsed operation with an electro-optical conversion efficiency of 65 percent -- a value unachievable with existing technology, Intense said.

"The increased efficiency of the new laser diode arrays will enable considerable power savings aboard space vehicles and will reduce heat removal requirements because a smaller fraction of the input energy will be converted into heat," the company said in a statement. "The pumping efficiency of solid-state lasers can be increased further if the array's emission spectrum is narrowed and stabilized using volume Bragg gratings. Their integration with the laser diode arrays will be assessed in cooperation with a US manufacturer."

The high-efficiency laser arrays will be manufactured to a demanding lifetime specification of 12 billion shots in a space environment. Intense's quantum well intermixing (QWI) technology, which allows passive waveguides to be created near a laser diode's mirrors, will ensure the device can withstand radiation damage.

"QWI technology is particularly suited to space-borne applications, as it produces laser diodes with increased radiation hardness," said Intense CEO John Marsh, PhD. "We are optimistic we can achieve these ambitious targets based on the success of the DARPA-funded SHEDS (super-high-efficiency diode sources) initiative in the US, where laser efficiency was improved by over 20 percent at longer wavelengths. Once developed, the PULSAR opportunity will enable further advances in Intense's capabilities at 808 nm, benefiting the entire Hermes high-power laser product family."

"The European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC), a division of the European Space Agency, is anxious to improve the efficiency and reliability of laser array pumps in future satellite missions," said Michael Jost, ESTEC's technical officer in charge of the current contract.

"There is a steady increase in the number of payloads incorporating powerful laser sources for applications such as atmospheric sensing, altimetry or optical communication -- to name just a few. Enhancing the reliability and efficiency of pump laser diodes will enable a reduction in the implementation of redundancy and allow for an extended operational lifetime of the payload."

The PULSAR program will run for 2.5 years. Research results will be published in industry journals and at technical conferences.

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The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
An astronomical body that emits radiation concentrated by a strong magnetic field into two beams that rotate, giving a pulsing effect.
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