M Squared Lasers' Firefly-IR laser, available in the UK and Europe through Elliot Scientific, provides capabilities in remote sensing, imaging and molecular spectroscopy. For instance, scientists at the University of St Andrews, UK have used the laser to reveal the presence of methane through the gas molecule's characteristic of absorbing specific infrared wavelengths. Firefly-IR's wide tuning range (in this case tuned to 3.35µm), high-powered nanosecond pulses and high pulse repetition rate enabled the researchers to capture high quality video of the escaping gas cloud.
Applications of the laser include: spectroscopy and detection of greenhouse gases and hydrocarbons, such as methane; security through the characterisation and detection of explosives, drugs and bio-agents; medical diagnostics for ppm breath monitoring; jet and combustion engine emissions reduction; oil exploration; molecular spectroscopy; lidar; and eye-safe illumination and IR countermeasures.
Firefly's high power and low beam divergence allows measurements to be made at great distance, while a high pulse repetition rate enables rapid data acquisition. The laser can measure signals easily from any background noise, making the Firefly-IR ideal for video-rate imaging – an alternative to basic 'yes/no' detection of hazardous substances in safety and security applications.
Firefly-IR is based on a novel intracavity OPO (optical parametric oscillator) design, integrated with a pulsed diode-pumped laser to offer wide tuneability. A single Firefly-IR can cover the mid-IR wavelengths from ~2.4 to 4.7µm, accessing the absorption features of many different molecular species.
The design also has major performance benefits, such as highly efficient conversion of the nanosecond pump pulses to the mid-IR and an extremely rugged and compact optical head. These features combine to offer cost and space savings for the user, and significant advantages in spectroscopy, sensing and detection applications.