Photonics

Laser Diode Market Stays Hot in 2007

The high-power laser diode market has grown rapidly in the last twelve months, a trend that is set to continue throughout 2006 and beyond. The global market for laser systems is forecast to grow by 8% in 2006 to US $5.9 billion, with diode lasers alone growing by 8%.

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Optical Software in ‘07: Isn’t that Easy?

Optical software programs provide optical designers with the means to predict and analyze performance characteristics of optical systems without experimental prototyping. Looking ahead into 2007, optical software will continue to enhance optical design capabilities in several ways. Optical software developers are concentrating their efforts on improving communication channels between engineers in disparate fields who are asked to collaborate. In a word, the direction is “inter-operability.”

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Holographic Plossl Retroreflectors

Lightweight, inexpensive holographic optical elements would be used in place of lenses. Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland Holographic retroreflectors that function equivalently to Plossl eyepieces have been developed and used in free-space optical communication systems that utilize laser beams. Plossl eyepieces are well known among telescope designers. They have been adopted for use as retroreflectors and as focusing elements (for reception) and collimating elements (for transmission) in optical communication systems. A retroreflector that incorporates a Plossl eyepiece is termed a cat’s eye retroreflector (see figure).

Posted in: Tech Briefs, ptb catchall, Photonics, Briefs, TSP

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High-Speed Laser Scanner Maps a Surface in Three Dimensions

Surface flaws can be scanned automatically and displayed in real time. Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California A scanning optoelectronic instrument generates the digital equivalent of a three-dimensional (X,Y,Z) map of a surface that spans an area with resolution on the order of 0.005 in. (≈0.125mm). Originally intended for characterizing surface flaws (e.g., pits) on space-shuttle thermal-insulation tiles, the instrument could just as well be used for similar purposes in other settings in which there are requirements to inspect the surfaces of many objects. While many commercial instruments can perform this surface-inspection function, the present instrument offers a unique combination of capabilities not available in commercial instruments.

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MALDI and Biotech Push Nitrogen Laser Development

The nitrogen laser is experiencing new growth due to low cost and the MALDI technique. Stanford Research Systems, Sunnyvale, California The Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption and Ionization (MALDI) technique in 1987 led to a renewed interest for the nitrogen laser. MALDI allows large and fragile biomolecules to be desorbed and ionized intact, or with much less fragmentation. The technique increased the upper mass limit for mass spectrometric analyses of biomolecules to over 300,000 Da, and has enabled the analysis of large biomolecules by mass spectrometry to become easier and more sensitive.

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Electro-Optical Imaging Fourier-Transform Spectrometer

Size, weight, and vibration are reduced by eliminating moving parts. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California An electro-optical (E-O) imaging Fourier-transform spectrometer (IFTS), now under development, is a prototype of improved imaging spectrometers to be used for hyperspectral imaging, especially in the infrared spectral region. Unlike both imaging and non-imaging traditional Fourier-transform spectrometers, the E-O IFTS does not contain any moving parts. Elimination of the moving parts and the associated actuator mechanisms and supporting structures would increase reliability while enabling reductions in size and mass, relative to traditional Fourier-transform spectrometers that offer equivalent capabilities. Elimination of moving parts would also eliminate the vibrations caused by the motions of those parts.

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Glass Molding Makes High-Quality Aspheres Cost Effective

High-resolution digital imaging, low-light-level biomedical devices, and automotive sensing are just a few of today’s hot technologies demanding both low-cost and high-performance optical systems. Critical in this effort is the mid- and high-volume requirement for aspheric optical components. Unfortunately, CNC polishing methods are expensive and take too long to produce each component, which has pushed precision glass molding to the front of asphere manufacturing technologies.

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