A $3 million grant will further the work of Electrical and Computer Engineering professors in their search of new gain materials for eye-safe, high-energy lasers.
The use of lasers in all facets of human life today is widespread, from medicine to defense to communications. But the work to develop lasers that are as strong a possible while not doing damage to human eyes is ongoing.
That is what researchers at Texas Tech University are developing, and their efforts received a huge boost from the U.S. Department of Defense.
The Texas Tech Nanophotonics Center – led by Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering Horn professors Hongxing Jiang, the Edward E. Whitacre Jr. Chair; Jingyu Lin, the Linda F. Whitacre Chair; and research professor Jing Li – recently received a $3 million grant from the High Energy Laser-Joint Technology Office within the Department of Defense. The project is sponsored by the Office of Naval Research within the Department of the Navy.
The grant is for a three-year base effort with a two-year option.
"If successful, this novel gain medium will enable the realization of solid state eye-safe high-energy lasers with superior performance and open up new applications in defense, medicine and communications, as well in new spectroscopy tools for scientific research,” Jiang said.
Eye-safe laser sources emit a beam at around 1.5 micrometers (one millionth of a meter). That wavelength is strongly absorbed by the fluid surrounding the eye, therefore protecting it from doing damage to the retina.
Lasers operating in that wavelength are highly sought-after for use in defense, communications, medicine, spectroscopy, imaging and various other applications where the laser is expected to travel long distances in free space. This project aims to achieve novel laser gain, or amplification, in materials and structures with dimensions sufficiently large enough to enable technology transition.
"Texas Tech has world-leading researchers that make important discoveries that impact our lives,” said Guy Loneragan, interim vice president for research. "This line of research exemplifies the type of outstanding research our faculty conducts. Laser damage to eyes can result in permanent and life-altering disability. This research will benefit society in preventing this sort of eye injury. It also provides unique opportunities for graduate students who – through participation in cutting-edge research – will become the next generation of outstanding researchers.”
Jiang and Lin have extensive experience in numerous research and development projects involving the development of III-nitride wide-bandgap semiconductor material and device technologies.
"The success of our proposal would not have been possible without the hard work and contributions of all team members in the Nanophotonics Center,” Lin said. "I believe competitive research projects like this provide unique opportunities for training young researchers at the highest possible scientific level.”
Their work has been widely recognized during the last two decades. Both have been elected fellows to the American Physical Society, the Optical Society of America and the SPIE – international society for optics and photonics. Jiang also has earned a fellowship from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
"This award highlights the world-class stature of the leadership team of the Nanophotonics Center and brings great honor and recognition to the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, the Whitacre College of Engineering and Texas Tech University,” said Michael Giesselman, chairman of the department.