Alexandrite laser could act as space radar

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A Nd:YAG laser that uses the gem stone Alexandrite could become a satellite-based laser radar (Lidar) following European Space Agency funded work by UK company Midaz.

Midaz’s Alexandrite laser has delivered high pulse energy (>23mJ @100Hz), which makes it useful for satellite-based remote sensing. Midaz develops and manufactures diode pumped solid state lasers with very high pulse repetition rates and high gain, single stage, amplifier modules. The Alexandrite laser is also expected to be useful for microscopy for biomedical imaging solutions and laser induced fluorescence spectroscopy for analysing materials at the molecular level.

‘What is remarkable about this laser technology demonstration is its exceptional high efficiency of greater than 31 per cent slope efficiency (equivalent to > 40 per cent with respect to absorbed pump power) in a system still with considerable scope for further optimisation towards 60 per cent efficiency,' Midaz chief technology officer professor Michael Damzen said. ‘The demonstrated efficiency is already an order of magnitude higher than lamp-pumped versions of the technology but the real significance is the opportunity diode-pumped Alexandrite offers to supersede Nd:YAG as the preferred laser source for space-based Lidar remote sensing.’

The ESA funded work was part of the agency’s Technology Research Programme and was overseen by its European Space Research and Technology Centre, which is based in the Netherlands. For the Lidar system aspects of the work Midaz was provided with technical support from Kent-based Lidar specialist Hovemere.