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Empa Opens UV Laser Center in Thun
Apr 2011
THUN, Switzerland, April 22, 2011 — Earlier this month, Empa, a research institution for applied materials sciences and technologies, opened a new laser center in Thun, the only UV laser facility of its kind in the world. Empa said commercial partners will use it to structure large films with micro- to nanometer precision.

Karl Böhlen, director of Crealas GmbH, at work in the new laser center.

At Empa’s new laser center, which is run in close collaboration with Crealas GmbH, very large surfaces can be microstructured using a pulsed UV laser beam that ablates nanometer-thin layers precisely from large surfaces of up to three square meters.

Surface microstructuring creates new physico-mechanical properties. For example, the microstructures can reduce friction, lower the amount of drag or inhibit fungal growth. Films for optical structures with light-controlling properties can also be manufactured, for example 3-D screens that work without glasses. Patrik Hoffman, head of Empa’s advanced materials processing laboratory, imagines using it to develop new kinds of windowpanes that would light up internal spaces at night and act as solar cells during the day. He said he intends to create materials for electrochemical processes, using them to form electrical connections on flexible screens or solar cells.

Empa’s new laser center.

The new facility benefits not only materials science but also Empa’s commercial partners. The laser machining of large surface areas means molding tools can be manufactured. Industry needs these to produce structured films cheaply and in bulk. Until now, molding tools have always had to be assembled from several parts, whereas the new laser center enables them to be produced in a single piece.

Films for optical security features can also be manufactured at the facility. A number of countries are already trying to replace the holograms on their banknotes with microstructured films with optical 3-D effects.

For more information, visit:  

BusinessCrealasdefenseEmpaenergyEuropegreen photonicslaser machininglasersMaterials & Chemicalsmicrostructured filmsoptical 3-Doptical structuresopticsPatrik Hoffmansolar cellsSwitzerlandUV laser beam

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