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UI researchers develop new infrared laser
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa researchers have developed a new infrared
laser that may one day help scientists to better detect levels of air pollution.
The research finding, published in the Dec. 29, 1997 issue of the journal
Applied Physics Letters , is co-authored by Michael FlattÇ,
Thomas Hasenberg and Thomas Boggess, all of the UI Optical Science and Technology
Center (OSTC) and faculty members in the department of physics and astronomy;
Jonathon Olesberg, UI graduate fellow in physics and astronomy; and Scott
Anson, graduate research assistant in electrical and computer engineering.
The device emits light with a wavelength of about 5.2 microns, or 10 times
that of visible light, and is the longest wavelength semiconductor laser of
its kind, according to FlattÇ, who designed the laser. The laser was
grown by Hasenberg and characterized by Boggess, who is also a professor of
electrical and computer engineering in the UI College of Engineering.
Most colors of long-wavelength infrared laser light, invisible to the human
eye, are not readily absorbed by normal atmospheric gases. "Trace amounts
of other chemicals will absorb that light, however, so similar lasers will
eventually have applications in detecting pollutants," says FlattÇ.
He adds that additional applications may range from non-invasive biomedical
monitoring to devices offering countermeasures to heat-seeking missiles.
Semiconductor lasers are the most efficient and inexpensive commercial lasers
and are used in a wide variety of products, such as supermarket scanners and
CD players. Previously tested long-wavelength infrared semiconductor lasers
were either inefficient or used materials that were easily damaged.
The UI faculty work to date has been supported by more than $1 million in
grants from the National Science Foundation, Hughes Research Laboratories
and the U.S. Air Force Phillips Laboratories. Associate Professor Winston
Chan of the UI College of Engineering department of electrical and computer
engineering joined the effort in April and currently processes the grown semiconductor
material into laser devices. Other co-authors of the journal article are Chi
Yan of the Boeing Defense and Space Group and D.L. McDaniel, Jr. of the U.S.
Air Force Phillips Laboratory, both located at Kirtland Air Force Base, New