Lasers are rapidly becoming more useful - they are widely available at shorter wavelengths, emitting shorter pulses and at higher energies and powers than ever before. These characteristics make them especially useful for several industrial applications such as velocimetry, micro-machining and welding, where the beam characteristics delivered to the workpiece are critical in determining the success and efficiency of the process. Unfortunately, the very characteristics that make these laser pulses so useful - their short pulse lengths, low wavelengths and higher energy and power - make them absolutely impossible to deliver using conventional fibre optics. This means that those wishing to exploit the new laser systems would currently have to do so using bulk optics - typically, several mirrors mounted on articulated arms to deliver the pulses to the workpiece.We propose to use an alternative optical fibre technology to solve this problem. Hollow-core fibres which guide light using a photonic bandgap cladding have roughly 1000 times less nonlinear response than conventional fibres, and have far higher damage thresholds as well. In previous work, we concentrated on longer nanosecond pulsed lasers, and demonstrated that we could use these fibres to deliver light capable of machining metals. However, it is with the picoscond and sub-picosecond pulse laser systems now becoming more widespread that the hollow-core fibres really come into their own. For these shorter pulses, transmission through conventional fibres is limited not only by damage, but first by pulse dispersion and optical nonlinear response. These problems can only be surmounted using hollow-core fibre - no competing technology has come even close.Our work programme has several strands, with the common objective being to devise systems capable of delivering picosecond-scale pulses through lengths of a few metres of fibre, at useful energies and powers. To do this, we need to be able to efficiently couple light into the fibres and transmit them, single-mode, over a few metres of fibre with low attenuation. We plan to focus our attention on doing this in the wavelength bands around 1060nm and 530mn, and to investigate the possibility of extending the work to shorter wavelengths. We will work closely with several collaborators from the industrial/commercial sector, ranging from a UK-based supplier of relevant laser systems through to a company developing machining systems and indiustries which actually use such systems. In this way, we plan to provide UK-based industry with a competitive edge on teh global stage, by providing them with access to an academic area where the UK is an acknowledged world leader.
|Effective start/end date||1/10/11 → 31/03/15|