Fiber lasers are the wave of the future at Lockheed Martin Aculight.
“We’re kind of known as the world leader in high-power fiber lasers,” said Rob Afzal, vice president for research and development.
Founded 14 years ago, the Bothwell, Wash.-based Aculight Corp. originally was focused on laser research and nonlinear optics, according to Afzal. The company grew to 85 people and, in the past four years, has become concentrated more on fiber laser technology – and on applications – than on pure research.
Global security company Lockheed Martin Corp. of Bethesda, Md., acquired Aculight last summer. Aculight’s expertise in areas such as laser radar, countermeasures, high-power directed energy and medical products is espected to benefit Lockheed Martin’s national defense and aerospace customers in areas that include guided munitions, advanced sensors, airborne self-protection and warfighter security.
On the medical side, too, the company now known as Lockheed Martin Aculight has moved “from an R&D focus to an applications-driven focus,” according to Mark Bendett, head of medical products. Exciting work in that field includes technology for Wounded Warrior programs, prosthetic limbs, microsurgical lasers and even optical hearing implants.
Afzal was unable to talk much about the company’s research into IR countermeasures – if he told me, he’d have to kill me – but said that Aculight researchers recently achieved 70 W of green from a fiber-based system. “And it’s air-cooled because of the efficiency of the fiber system,” he noted. Applications include military uses – countermeasures – and solar energy.
The transition from Aculight Corp. to Lockheed Martin Aculight is completed, and both entities are stronger for it. “We now enable Lockheed Martin to be vertically integrated with laser systems,” Afzal said, “and they allow us to supply whole-system solutions to our customers.”
“For a very small group, we have a very big reach,” Bendett said.
Laura S. Marshall