Pranalytica develops QCL beam combination for DARPA

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Pranalytica has been selected by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) programme to participate in Phase I of the beam combining of high-power quantum cascade laser (QCL) arrays project for the US Army's Aviation and Missile Command (AMCOM).

The project was created to fill the need of the Department of Defense (DoD) for directional infrared countermeasures (DIRCM), advanced stand-off chemical sensors, and laser radar. Potential non-military applications include DIRCM protection of civilian airliners from shoulder-fired missiles, detection of toxic industrial gases, and atmospheric pollution monitoring.

'Pranalytica is committed to providing breakthrough technologies and applications to enhance the capabilities and safety of our troops in today's dynamic and high-tech wartime environments,' said Dr Patel, president and CEO of Pranalytica. 'Beam combining of high power quantum cascade laser arrays is a step forward in protecting airborne assets from shoulder-fired missiles (also called man-portable air-defence systems, MANPADS), detecting harmful elements in the field, and creating a virtual picture of the combat area. All these applications help produce a safer and more secure environment for our nation's war-fighters.'

The objective of the first phase of the SBIR is to demonstrate high power quantum cascade laser arrays while maintaining good beam quality. Phase I calls for making a 200mW average power, thermoelectrically cooled laser with at leastĀ four per cent wall-plug efficiency (WPE), and planning for combining those into a 1W module.

Phase II calls for extending the approach to average power levels greater than 5W. 'Pranalytica has already developed a 3W continuous wave room temperature laser running at more than 10 per cent WPE, which dramatically exceeds Phase I goals, and is in principle already able to satisfy the literal Phase II goals with simple polarisation beam combining of only two QLCs,' noted Patel. 'However, we will fulfil the spirit of the SBIR and combine multiple high power emitters, thus providing various DoD components with an extensible method of creating very high power QCL modules, exceeding 10 watts.'