LONDON A consortium of eight partners led by QinetiQ has been awarded £1 million funding from Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to develop mid-infrared (MIR) semiconductor lasers with a range of potential commercial applications.
Mid-infrared lasers operate at wavelengths in the range 3-5 microns, longer than the wavelengths of standard lasers currently in use, which might be suitable for applications in healthcare, environmental monitoring, manufacturing, and free space communications.
Potential healthcare applications include the treatment of prostate and cornea disorders and the development of a new instrument for medical imaging at the nanoscale that could be used for stem-cell identification and the early detection of cancer.
Until now the commercial potential of MIR lasers has been limited because they require cooling to minus 200C using expensive mechanical cooling techniques. A semiconductor laser consists of several layers to enable separate confinement of the charge carriers and the light. If the middle active layer, where the charge carriers are confined, is made thin enough to act as a quantum well, the laser can be made more efficient.
The consortium will use strained-layer engineering to develop a new laser with a highly efficient active region that can operate close to room temperature without the need for expensive cooling.
In addition to managing the consortium, QinetiQ will lead on the development of semiconductor material and device fabrication technology. Ring-laser expertise will be provided by Lancaster University, which has developed a Whispering Gallery Mode (WGM) resonator and the theoretical modeling of semiconductor lasers will be conducted by Surrey University.