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Tech Development Fund helps optics professor pursue promising ways to boost laser power, efficiency

terbium

The lab of John Marciante, Associate Professor of Optics, has developed a resonant optical de-excitation process which, when used in conjunction with terbium-doped glass fibers, could greatly increase the power and efficiency of visible lasers for use in minimally invasive surgery and laser digital cinema.

Jan. 1, 2016: John Marciante, Associate Professor of Optics, would like to see lasers applied in ever more efficient, powerful ways for an array of applications, ranging from telecommunications, to minimally invasive surgery, to sharper, richer colors on movie screens.

The University’s Technology Development Fund is helping him explore two particularly promising avenues of research. Marciante, in fact, is the first University researcher to receive two such awards, which are designed to help move great ideas closer to commercialization.

“You can come up with an idea, do a demonstration, and get a patent, but a company might look at that and say ‘but that was done in a lab’; They’ll worry about how to manufacture it. They’ll want to see a lot more,” Marciante said.

“That’s the whole idea of Tech Development Fund: how do we get more data that would help us license the technology?”

Marciante’s latest TDF-funded project, for example, has the potential to greatly increase the spectral purity and beam quality of high power semiconductor lasers, by changing the focusing optics and embedding a unique feedback mechanism in a dual-clad fiber. 

This could enhance the performance of semiconductor lasers not only as laser pumps to boost the power of conventional and ultrafast fiber lasers, but also as direct laser sources. Applications range from more efficient pumping for ultrafast kW fiber lasers to telecommunications.

 A previous TDF award helped his lab continue work on a uniquely engineered resonant optical cavity to overcome excited-state absorption (ESA) – a major barrier to using otherwise promising materials for high-power visible lasers.

ESA occurs when electrons are excited to a high state of energy and start absorbing additional pump energy, decreasing the energy available for lasing and the laser’s output efficiency.

Marciante’s lab has developed a resonant optical de-excitation process that, when used in conjunction with terbium-doped glass fibers, could greatly increase the power and efficiency of visible lasers for use in minimally invasive surgery and laser digital cinema.

The Technology Development Fund awards have helped pay stipends for graduate students and for material and equipment, such as pump lasers and safety goggles for the first project, and a custom dual-clad fiber for the second.

 At least one European digital laser cinema company has expressed interest in Marciante’s work, thanks to connections established at a Center for Emerging and Innovative Sciences showcase.

Without the TDF funding, Marciante said, he wouldn’t have had much more than a theory to offer. “I probably would have been embarrassed to even approach this company. We’ve learned a lot about how to make this work and the specific application to laser cinema.”

dual clad

By changing the focusing optics and embedding a unique feedback mechanism in a dual-clad fiber, Marciante’s lab hopes to greatly increase the spectral purity and beam quality of high power semiconductor lasers.