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Laser Market “at Record High” – Analyst
- Mar 01, 2014 -

The tenth annual Directed Energy Systems conference, organized by Defence IQ and held in London earlier this month, heard almost two dozen presentations on all of the key areas in the development of DES.

Defence IQ said of this year's event, “Directed Energy Systems has continued to build and expand upon the key issue of moving DE technology out from the laboratory and into the field, for both lethal and non-lethal systems.

Speakers came from a wide range of academic, strategic, military and technological sectors. One of the notable academic presentations focused on the growing importance of fiber lasers for DES by Prof. Andy Clarkson from the Optoelectronics Research Centre at the University of Southampton, UK, who was presenting on behalf of an unavailable Prof. Sir David Payne .

Clarkson described fiber lasers as the "perfect building block" for directed energy systems – as they are electrically powered, efficient, modular, reliable with their civilian technology backbone. He said, “Power levels for narrow-line width fiber MOPAs (master oscillator power amplifiers) are currently around a few kilowatts. With the development of new rare earth doped fibers, such as those with ytterbium and holmium, fiber lasers have the potential to scale to higher powers.” 

He told the conference that even in relatively recent years fiber lasers had not been considered as suitable sources for directed energy systems because their outputs had not been great enough. However as kilowatt developments by the likes of IPG Photonics have led to fiber lasers starting to deliver multi-kilowatt outputs, these sources were creating a stir because of their ease of construction, economy and increasing power conversion efficiency. 

“In the past decade alone, cladding-pumped fiber lasers based on ytterbium-doped silica operating in the 1.0 to 1.1μm wavelength have seen their powers grow from a few watts towards 10kW and beyond, delivering energy intensities well above 5x10 12 W/m 2 .

Such lasers have initially found many applications in materials processing including the fabrication of medical stents and the production of laser-treated turbine blades.