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Posted: Mar 13, 2006
New ultrashort pulse laser employs carbon nanotubes
(Nanowerk News) A breakthrough in its optics and photonics research at the Center for Advanced Photonics and Electronics (CAPE) at the University of Cambridge, UK was announced by Advance Nanotech, Inc (AVNA). AVNA-funded researchers have produced their first working prototype of a new ultrashort pulse laser. The AVNA/CAPE laser should be less expensive to manufacture and more flexible than photonic components currently on the market. The new technology could significantly reduce the cost of doing business across industries ranging from telecommunications to medical diagnostics.
Ultrashort lasers are widely used for optical communication, material processing, marking and drilling, and medical diagnostics and therapeutics. The AVNA/CAPE lasers are compact and employ only a tenth of a milligram of carbon nanotube material at a cost of about ten cents per device. The device, which produces sub-picosecond pulses, can be quickly and easily plugged into existing laser systems without sophisticated and time-consuming alignments traditionally associated with modifying optics equipment.
"Our component can be inserted into a laser system and immediately produce stable, ultrashort, high-power optical pulses without the need for precise alignment," said Professor Ian White, the head of Photonics Research at CAPE. "In addition, the intrinsic robustness of our working prototype means that it can be easily moved and shipped without any risk of damage."
Carbon nanotubes are vital to the advancement of nanotechnology due to their extreme electronic, optical and mechanical properties, and Advance Nanotech is currently funding a variety of carbon nanotubes-related research projects. In addition to pulse lasers, nanotubes play a key role in a variety of materials-based research projects ranging from space elevators to artificial muscles to ultrahigh-speed flywheels. Single walled carbon nanotubes can be insulating, semiconducting or metallic depending on growth conditions. This wide range of physical properties enables a plethora of electronic, optical and material applications, including transistors, interconnects in integrated circuits, and components for optical networks. Successful commercialization of carbon nanotube applications, such as the AVNA/CAPE laser, requires robust, manufacturable and inexpensive control of the properties of the nanotubes.
"Since the AVNA/CAPE laser combines the unique optical properties of carbon nanotubes to generate ultrashort pulses in a range of operating wavelengths, with the mechanical and structural strength of nanotubes to handle high optical powers and energies, we expect to find wide-spread application in optics and laser technology," said Dr. Peter Gammel, senior vice president, Electronics at Advance Nanotech. "We expect that the compact and robust demonstrator fabricated by AVNA's scientists in Cambridge is only the first of a long series of increasingly sophisticated and high-performance devices."
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