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V-Assembly Dual-Head Efficiency Resonator (VADER) Laser Transmitter

The combined features form a unit with new performance levels. A complete demonstration breadboard unit for advanced development as a high-TRL (technology readiness level) system has been constructed and characterized. Infusion of several new component technologies, such as ceramic:YAG material and high-power laser diode arrays (LDAs), combined with a proprietary minimal part count architecture, has resulted in dramatic performance gains. The proprietary dual-head configuration employs a pair of side-pumped laser slabs, optically in series in the cavity, but at opposing polarization orientations. This promises tremendous power range scalability, simplified and symmetrical thermal lens control, unprecedented stored energy extraction efficiency, and inherent diffraction limited TEM00 beam quality.

Posted in: Tech Briefs, Physical Sciences, Photonics, Briefs, TSP

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Twin Head Efficient Oscillator Development for the ACE Multi- Beam Lidar and 3D-Winds

This technology is applicable to atmospheric lidar, Doppler wind measurements, interplanetary laser communications, and materials processing. The Twin Head Efficient Oscillator (THEO) concept uses a pair of smaller, identical laser pump modules, oriented to remove asymmetrical thermo-optical effects typical in single-slab lasers such as HOMER (High Output Maximum Efficiency Resonator), MLA (Mercury Laser Altimeter), LOLA Lunar Orbiter Laser Altimeter, and GLAS (Geoscience Laser Altimeter), while simultaneously increasing efficiency and lifetime. This creates 100+ mJ pulses in an oscillator-only design, with reduced risk of optical damage, record efficiency, high stability, long life, and high TEM00 beam quality typical of much smaller rod-based cavities. Near-field-beam quality is critical to efficient second harmonic generation (SHG 532 nm), which is typically poor in slab-based Nd:YAG lasers.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Photonics, Briefs, TSP

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Planetary Polarization Nephelometer

Instrument provides more detailed information on aerosols encountered in a planetary environment. Aerosols in planetary atmospheres have a significant impact on the energy balance of the planets, yet are often poorly characterized. An in situ instrument was developed that would provide more diagnostic information on the nature of aerosols it encountered if deployed on a planetary descent probe. Previous probe instruments only measured intensity phase functions, but much particle ambiguity remains with only this information. Adding the polarization phase function greatly reduces particle characteristic ambiguities, but also adds more challenges in designing a measurement approach. Laboratory instrumentation to measure intensity and polarization phase functions have existed since the early 1970s, but these instruments employed quarter-wave plates and Pockels cells to modulate the illuminating beam and the scattered light to isolate the intensity and polarization phase functions. Both of these components are unstable except under tightly controlled thermal conditions. This solution avoids the use of thermally sensitive components such as quarter- wave plates or Pockels cells, and avoids requiring the detectors to be placed around the sensing volume.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Photonics, Briefs, TSP

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A Hybrid Fiber/Solid-State Regenerative Amplifier with Tunable Pulse Widths for Satellite Laser Ranging

A fiber/solid-state hybrid seeded regenerative amplifier, capable of achieving high output energy with tunable pulse widths, has been developed for satellite laser ranging applications. The regenerative amplifier cavity uses a pair of Nd:YAG zigzag slabs oriented orthogonally to one another in order to make thermal lensing effects symmetrical and simplify optical correction schemes. The seed laser used is a fibercoupled 1,064-nm narrowband (

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Photonics, Briefs, TSP

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Optical Device for Converting a Laser Beam Into Two Co-aligned but Oppositely Directed Beams

Optical systems consisting of a series of optical elements require alignment from the input end to the output end. The optical elements can be mirrors, lenses, sources, detectors, or other devices. Complex optical systems are often difficult to align from end-to-end because the alignment beam must be inserted at one end in order for the beam to traverse the entire optical path to the other end. The ends of the optical train may not be easily accessible to the alignment beam.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Photonics, Briefs, TSP

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Practical UAV Optical Sensor Bench With Minimal Adjustability

A multiple-pass optical platform eliminates essentially all optical alignment degrees of freedom, save one. A fourpass absorption spectrometer architecture is made rigid by firmly mounting dielectric-coated mirror prisms with no alignment capability to the platform. The laser diode beam is collimated by a small, custom-developed lens, which has only a rotational degree of freedom along the standard optical “z” axis. This degree is itself eliminated by adhesive after laser collimation. Only one degree of freedom is preserved by allowing the laser diode chip and mount subassembly to move relative to the collimating lens by using over-sized mounting holes. This allows full 360° motion of a few millimeters relative to the lens, which, due to the high numerical aperture of the lens, provides wide directional steering of the collimated laser beam.

Posted in: Physical Sciences, Photonics, Briefs, TSP

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Ultra-Compact, Superconducting Spectrometer-on-a-Chip at Submillimeter Wavelengths

These spectrometer modules can be used for future astrophysics missions that require compact cryogenic spectrometers. Small size, wide spectral bandwidth, and highly multiplexed detector readout are required to develop powerful multi-beam spectrometers for high-redshift observations. Currently available spectrometers at these frequencies are large and bulky. The grating sizes for these spectrometers are prohibitive. This fundamental size issue is a key limitation for space-based spectrometers for astrophysics applications.

Posted in: Tech Briefs, Physical Sciences, Semiconductors & ICs, Photonics, Briefs, TSP

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