Fabricating Miniature Laser Frequency Combs in Minutes

Laser frequency combs are high-precision tools for measuring different colors of light in applications ranging from advanced atomic clocks to medical diagnostics. Physicists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) can now make the core of a miniature frequency comb in one minute, whereas traditional microfabrication techniques may take hours, days, or weeks. In this video, NIST physicist Scott Papp describes the process, which involves machining a piece of quartz to produce a small, smooth disk within which light can circulate. The size and shape of this optical cavity, or resonator, can be controlled by the user. "We make a resonator in one minute, and one minute after that we are making a frequency comb," says Papp.