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Those looking to discover the latest developments in ultrafast lasers and their applications need look no further than the extensive range of presentations taking place at the LASE conference being held at Photonics West in San Francisco from 1 to 6 February.

On 1 February, for example, in the session ‘Ultrafast Laser Imaging and Diagnostics’, researchers from Pusan National University in South Korea will be sharing how they have developed a new alternative ultrafast laser source for non-linear imaging.

The source – intended to replace conventional bulky and unportable solid-state laser sources – is an active mode-locked pulsed picosecond fibre laser based on a semiconductor optical amplifier. To demonstrate the imaging performance of the new source, the researchers have obtained two-photon induced fluorescence and second harmonic generation images using a custom-built multiphoton microscope.

In the session ‘Ultrafast Lasers for the Manipulation of Cells’, researchers from the Riken Center for Advanced Photonics and Brain Science in Japan will be explaining how they are using femtosecond lasers to fabricate biochips for use in cancer studies. The chips can accommodate a defect-free biomimetic environment for the evaluation of prostate cancer cell migration in confined spaces, and thereby provide new findings in the study of cancer cell migration.

On the following day, in the ‘Novel Ultrafast Laser Sources’ session, Florian Emaury, of Menhir Photonics, will be addressing what he says is the limited industrial deployment of ultrafast lasers in metrology, due to their current lack of reliability. He’ll inform attendees about how a new ultrafast laser oscillator developed by his company offers exceptionally high reliability and robustness, low phase noise and low timing jitter, making it suitable for applications in fields such as spectroscopy, supercontinuum generation or ultra-low noise microwave generation.

Researchers from Italy’s National Research Council and the Polytechnic University of Milan have developed a new femtosecond laser micromachining process for fabricating photonic integrated circuits, which they say addresses previous issues concerning scalability. In the session ‘Ultrafast Laser Writing of Integrated Photonic Devices’, they will explain how their process takes advantage of thermally insulating microstructures (trenches and bridge waveguides) to demonstrate low propagation losses (0.29dB/cm at 1,550nm), along with a power dissipation for a 2π phase shift down to 37mW. This will address the issues faced when using a thermal phase shifter to reconfigure FLM devices, whose operation requires many hundreds of milliwatts – strongly limiting the scalability of these circuits.

Also on Sunday, in the session ‘Advanced Ultrafast Laser Processing Techniques’, researchers from the University of California, San Diego, will be in attendance discussing their recent success in welding ceramics using ultrafast lasers. Their approach makes use of both the linear and non-linear absorption processes induced by ultrafast lasers at a material interface to melt and fuse ceramic materials without causing cracking – an issue often faced when welding ceramics with a furnace due to the extreme temperature gradients involved. The new technique works in ambient conditions and uses less than 50W of laser power. Ceramic materials are of great interest to multiple industries because they are biocompatible, extremely hard and shatter resistant, making them ideal for biomedical implants and protective casings for electronics.

Going into the following week, in the Monday session ‘Ultrafast Fiber Lasers and Amplifiers I’, David Clark, of IPG Photonics, will be discussing a new fibre laser architecture for picosecond and femtosecond lasers. The architecture will offer disruptive cost, performance, compact size and high reliability, and is IPG’s answer to the historically high price, bulky form factor and poor reliability of traditional ultrafast laser designs, which Clark – in addition to Emaury – also believes has prevented their widespread adoption in industry.

Also on Monday, in the session: ‘Ultrafast Laser-induced Modifications in Transparent Materials’, researchers from EPFL, in Switzerland, will be presenting their work on using femtosecond lasers to tune the properties of dielectric materials. Using the non-linear absorption phenomena triggered by ultrafast laser exposure, they are able to tailor a variety of physical properties, including heat conductivity, thermal expansion, Young’s modulus and stress state surrounding laser-affected zones. This capability opens up interesting perspectives for sophisticated functional devices, according to the researchers.

All this and plenty more will be awaiting ultrafast laser enthusiasts at Photonics West this year.

Photonic Solutions - Featured product

I-OPA truly one-box optical parametric amplifier

The I-OPA series of robust industrial-grade optical parametric amplifiers (OPAs) from Light Conversion mark a new era of simplicity and user-friendliness in the world of tunable fs pulses. These OPAs provide tunable femtosecond pulses from the UV to MIR, at repetition rates from single shot to 2MHz, and with pump powers/energies up to 40W/2mJ.

Light Conversion are world-leading manufacturers of the impressive TOPAS/ORPHEUS femtosecond optical parametric amplifiers (OPAs), as well as fully-industrialised DPSS femtosecond lasers PHAROS and CARBIDE. The I-OPA is a rugged and highly stable module that attaches directly to the PHAROS or CARBIDE femtosecond pump laser, and thereby provides the first and only truly one-box solution for almost any application.

Available across UK and Ireland from Photonic Solutions, these highly reliable and flexible sources are an invaluable tool for 2P and 3P microscopy, optogenetics, micros-structuring and ultrafast spectroscopy applications. Coupled with the optional HARPIA extension, capabilities may be further expanded to include many more femtosecond spectroscopic solutions, such as transient absorption spectroscopy and stimulated Raman scattering.
Manx Precision Optics (MPO) - Featured product

Manx Precision Optics (MPO) is a leading manufacturer of Optics with special expertise in manufacturing High Laser-Induced Damage Threshold optics for Ultrafast applications. With a significant focus on Research and Development, Manx Precision Optics has expanded its range with new TTMH-type mirrors.

Using a specially designed metal-dielectric hybrid coating, MPO’s TTMH-type mirrors are able to achieve a very high LIDT and offer high reflectance over a 200nm bandwidth (700-900nm) under 45deg p-polarisation.

The coating has been designed with a low group delay dispersion (GDD) in mind and can be applied to optics up to 450mm diameter. Due to the full in-house manufacture of substrates and coatings, MPO can offer tight flatness specifications after coating.

With a hugely experienced workforce and a dedication to their craft, MPO prides itself in offering customers the best possible advice and solutions for even the most challenging of applications.

Other commercial products

Among the ultrafast laser products on the market right now are Menlo Systems’ all-fibre design femtosecond laser modules for OEM integration and scientific applications. The firm’s ‘figure 9’ mode locking technology enables continuous robust operation with reproducible and long-term stable laser output parameters, even under harsh environmental conditions. The laser modules of its ELMO and YLMO series – available at 1,560, 1,030, 930, 780 or 515nm – are suited to applications such as multi-photon-microscopy, 3D printing, the seeding of amplifier chains, and terahertz generation.

Also suited to multi-photon microscopy is Thorlab’s Tiberius titanium sapphire femtosecond laser, which provides 140fs pulses over a wide tuning range with tuning speeds of up to 4,000nm/s. An ideal choice for two-photon microscopy, the laser offers an average power greater than 2.3W at 800nm and a wavelength that is tuneable from 720nm to 1,060nm, allowing the user to target specific compounds for two-photon fluorescence imaging and photostimulation/uncaging. The relatively narrow spectral bandwidth of the pulses reduces the effect of pulse broadening caused by Pockels cells and other dispersive elements, while still providing high peak intensity for two-photon excitation.

Excelitas Technologies’ ultrafast laser offerings include its Linos Double BBO High-Repetition Pockels cells. Featuring two crystals in an optical series to enable fast switching rates with up to 1.3MHz performance, the cells are specifically designed for fast Q-switching as required in regenerative amplifiers, or for pulse pickers. Applications for the Pockels cells include use in ultrafast lasers for micro material processing, ophthalmology, and fluorescence spectroscopy, as well as by laser manufacturers and scientific institutes. 

Also of interest will be QD Laser’s Distributed Feedback NIR picosecond pulse laser diodes, supplied by AP Technologies, which represent ideal seed sources for fibre lasers with a wide choice of wavelengths from 1,030 to 1,240nm. The firm’s proprietary grating process enables tight control of the grating pitch and hence the operating wavelength of the laser diode, along with excellent single mode stability. When operated in gain-switched mode, the diodes can achieve pulse widths of 50ps to 1ns by fine-tuning the offset voltage and pulse repetition rate. Designs optimised for pulse widths down to 15ps are also available. The laser diodes come in a 14-pin butterfly package, or a 7-pin package with SMPM RF connector. Both have a polarisation maintaining fibre, integrated isolator, thermoelectric cooler, thermistor and monitor photodiode.

A number of ultrafast laser solutions will be exhibited at Photonics West this year. Toptica Photonics will be displaying its new FemtoFiber Vario 1030 micro-joule fibre laser, suited to both life sciences and materials processing applications. Menhir Photonics will be exhibiting its industrial-grade femtosecond lasers, operating at 1,550nm with gigahertz repetition-rates and ultra-low noise performance. And Luxinar will be showing its first femtosecond laser, the LXR 100, suited to materials processing applications. 

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