Modular Ultrafast Sources

Lead Research Organisation: University of St Andrews
Department Name: Physics and Astronomy


Since the development of the first Kerr-lens mode-locked lasers in 1990, practical femtosecond lasers in a wide variety of configurations have delivered handsomely to a significant number of major scientific developments. It has to be recognised that the application space remains limited by the cost, complexity, skilled-user requirements and restricted flexibility of the current generation of ultrafast lasers. In this proposed joint project we seek to lead the way in the development of a new generation of ultrafast lasers. By adopting a modular approach for laser design we are aiming to demonstrate a platform from which lasers can be designed to address a wide range of user-specific requirements. By taking this approach, lasers for use in communications, for example, will have the necessary high repetition rates and low peak powers whereas for biophotonics high peak powers will be delivered to take full advantage of exploitable optical nonlinearities. We plan to work with vibronic crystals in both bulk and waveguide geometries and semiconductor quantum dot structures as the primary gain media. Although vibronic crystals have been deployed widely in ultrashort-pulse lasers the flexibility offered by conventional laser designs is very limited. To remedy this situation we intend to revolutionise cavity design to enable electrical control of the laser output parameters. For example, we wish to provide a means to users to change from an unmodelocked status to a femtosecond-pulse regime at the flick of switch. Also, by exploiting waveguiding in vibronic crystals we are confident that we can introduce a new generation of highly compact lasers that will combine many of the advantages of a semiconductor laser with the most attractive features of crystal based devices. In some preliminary work in the Ultrafast Photonics Collaboration we have shown the potential of semiconductor quantum dot structures as broadband gain media that Can support the amplification and generation of femtosecond optical pulses. We now seek to build on those promising results and make the push towards truly flexible ultrafast lasers that will be amenable to external electronic control of the gain and loss components. Progress is expected to lead to a new generation of lasers that can give applications compatibility that far exceeds that available from traditional laser system designs. Within this strategy we plan to employ hybrid approaches where the benefits of semiconductor lasers will be combined with the energy storage capabilities of crystals to deliver compact and rugged sources having pulse characteristics that cover a range of durations, energies and profiles.A major part of this project effort will be devoted to the development of control functionality in ultrafast lasers. The intention is to use direct electrical control of intracavity components to deliver designer options for pulse shaping, modulated data streams, wavelength tuning and tailored dispersion. To ensure that this research is applicable we will evaluate the laser developments in the context of a set of identified demonstrators. These implementations will be used to show how design flexibility can deliver optimised lasers for biological, medical, communications and related applications.We have put together a research team having complementary of expertise and established track records of international excellence in photonics. This project as a whole will be managed from St Andrews University but all three research groups will undertake interactive research on all aspects of the laser development. We are confident that the work of this team will represent cutting-edge fundamental and translational research and it should represent a world leading strength for the UK in the development of new ultrafast lasers.


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Description The award broadly aimed to deliver optimised lasers for biological, medical, communications and related applications. In this respect, a number of promising new laser glass materials were developed to full ultrashort pulse laboratory demonstrators having compact efficient diode-pumped geometries. Methods of cell transfection have been further developed to demonstrate the application of such sources to the biology and healthcare sectors. Compact and efficient sources suitable for applications in these sectors have the potential to drive wider adoption of new clinical techniques. One key factor in the wider adoption of these techniques is that source complexity and cost is driven lower than current state of the art.
Exploitation Route The wider adoption of biophotonic techniques based on ultrashort pulsed lasers will continue to be driven by reduced cost and complexity of available sources. This award had demonstrated a number of simple efficient sources with output wavelengths spanning a broad range of wavelengths. Accessing new spectral domains with these sources is expected to open up new opportunities due to increased absorption depth and lower thermal impact in clinical applications.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Healthcare,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology

Description Contributions made by this research in the domain of cell transfection represent an enabling step in clinical research methods. The impact is primarily Societal, via the Healthcare sector. New laser material and source develoment has the potential to have impact beyond academia but this is difficult to quantify more specifically.
First Year Of Impact 2008
Sector Healthcare,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology
Impact Types Societal

Description EMRP
Amount £210,000 (GBP)
Funding ID IND14-REG1 
Organisation European Metrology Research Program (EMRP) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 09/2011 
End 09/2013