SuperLight Photonics - Cees Links
Oct 31, 2023
SuperLight Photonics is not just introducing a product; we are pioneering an industry transition. Our compact wideband laser is a catalyst for change, encouraging various applications to embrace innovation and unlock the full potential of wideband lasers.
Lasers have emerged as versatile and indispensable tools across various domains: they are intense undeviating sources of light that aid numerous industries in enhancing their performance. They play critical roles in the medical field, supporting procedures like endoscopy and non-invasive imaging. In agriculture, lasers help assess food quality (such as in fruits), and are mounted on drones to inspect crops, aiding in precision fertilizing and pest control. They are also employed in industrial settings for quality control tasks, like detecting micro-cracks. Beyond these applications, lasers are used in forensics, research, and more, with new uses constantly emerging.
Traditionally, the laser market has been dominated by monochromatic, narrow-band lasers. However, more than a decade ago, wideband lasers—also known as super-continuum generation (SCG) lasers—were invented and their superior qualities as light sources were recognized. To understand the advantages of wideband lasers compared to monochromatic lasers, consider the comparison between color TVs and black-and-white TVs; the superiority of the color TV doesn’t need additional explanation.
Viewing an object with a monochrome laser is akin to trying to analyze an object (such as a tumor) based solely on the light and dark shades produced by the laser light. A wideband laser, on the other hand, provides many different frequencies of light that can scatter-, reflect off of, and absorb and transmit across objects creating a “color” picture and providing a new dimension of information about the object. This benefit applies across many laser applications: wideband lasers offer a more detailed view of the object compared to monochrome ("black-and-white") lasers.
Unfortunately, despite their potential, wideband lasers have been limited in adoption due to their size, weight, power consumption, and cost. The promise of wideband lasers was seemingly out of reach—until now.
Introducing SuperLight Photonics’ SLP-1000
SuperLight Photonics presents the SLP-1000: a compact, lightweight, coherent, wideband NIR laser that operates on batteries, boasting superior spectral capabilities compared to its predecessors. By utilizing Photonics Integrated Circuit (PIC) technology and incorporating it into the SLP-1000, we have achieved portable dimensions: less than 1dm³ in size, less than 1kg in weight, and with a power consumption that allows operation on a 12V Li-ion battery.
This NIR wideband laser picks up where traditional wideband laser development stalled about ten years ago. It uses patented PAD - Patterned Alternating DispersionTM technology that, substantially decreases the input power needed to generate the wide bandwidth, by orders of magnitude. This decrease in power requirement then decreases the size, weight, power consumption and cost of the laser as additional elements such as amplification stages, cooling stages and electronic controllers are no longer needed. This technology is at the heart of enabling SCG on PIC (Photon-IC). The PAD technology not only makes wideband lasers versatile and portable, but it also provides superior wideband laser light qualities: spatial and spectral coherence, ultrafast pulse durations, wide bandwidth spectra and low noise fluctuations in its output beam.
For example, by utilizing PAD on PIC in the SLP-1000 ultrafast pulse durations of around 20 fs are achieved, with wide spectral bandwidth: 400nm (at -3dB) and 1500nm (at -20dB), with a collimated beam diameter of 1.8mm. Instead of needing watts of optical power, as is done in current SCG lasers, the SLP-1000 superior SCG laser performance is achieved with optical powers of approx. 10mW or below with an output power of 3mW, at 100MHz repetition rate and a Relative Intensity Noise (RIN) factor of <10^-14dB/Hz.
By using milliwatts instead of watts of optical power to generate the wide bandwidth laser output, the SLP-1000 delivers the exact beam characteristics that are desired at the sample without the risk of damaging whatever is being illuminated with it. In contrast, watt-level SCG sources must be used with specialized optical attenuators, filters and even vacuum chambers as the power is so high that air becomes ionized and scatters the ability for the beam to propagate to the destination. This reliance on these additional stages and eye-safety concerns further limit high-powered SCG sources to only the in-lab setting, a problem that is not an issue with the low-power SLP-1000 SCG laser anymore.
Furthermore, the milliwatt generation range of the SLP-1000 yields superior laser coherence by circumventing noise sources present in the current high-powered SCG sources such as chirped-pulse amplification stages, Raman and stimulated Brouillon scattering, increased amount of optical components and noisy thermal systems. Not using chirped-pulse amplification stages along with the specifics of the PAD technology also enables short pulse durations of 20 fs, as op
posed to the 100s of picoseconds to nanoseconds durations found with current SCG lasers.
This innovation marks a game-changing moment in the wideband laser market and in the laser technology as a whole. By addressing the primary challenges associated with traditional wideband lasers, we are breaking down barriers and making this advanced technology accessible for a wide range of applications.
The compact design and lightweight nature of this wideband laser ensure its portability, while its battery-powered operation enhances versatility, enabling use in mobile and remote locations away from mains power sources.
In (bio)medical imaging (OCT), wideband lasers enable high-resolution, non-invasive diagnostic procedures, providing unparalleled clarity and detail in studying early signs of diseases or analyzing complex biological structures. In communications, they can contribute to faster and more reliable data transmission, boosting the capacity of fiber optic cables and meeting the ever-growing demand for bandwidth with efficiency and speed. In material processing and manufacturing, wideband lasers offer precision and versatility, enabling thorough quality inspections and reducing processing times. In industries like aerospace, automotive, and electronics manufacturing, they facilitate non-contact, high-resolution measurements, ensuring components meet stringent standards. In agriculture, they can analyze soil properties, monitor crop health, and optimize irrigation, even from drones, thanks to their portability.
A call to action: embracing the wideband laser revolution
SuperLight Photonics is not just introducing a product; we are pioneering an industry transition. Our compact wideband laser is a catalyst for change, encouraging various applications to embrace innovation and unlock the full potential of wideband lasers. By making this technology accessible in a portable form, we are enabling benefits once reserved for large-scale, well-funded operations to be available to small businesses, researchers, and practitioners across fields, driving innovation and progress.
The advent of compact wideband lasers marks a pivotal moment in the history of laser technology. Overcoming the limitations of size, weight, and power consumption, this technology is now accessible across numerous industries. From biomedical imaging to material processing, from metrology to industry and agriculture, the applications are vast and varied. Our compact wideband laser is more than a product; it’s a promise of innovation, precision, and progress.
The future is bright, illuminated by a wide spectrum of light. Welcome to the wideband laser revolution!