Professor in the Quad Cities Helps Make a Cheaper, More Flexible Laser

November  25, 2013

A physics professor in the Quad Cities has helped make a breakthrough in the field of ultra-fast optics. Jim Van Howe at Augustana College in Rock Island, and Mike Durst at Bates College in Maine, have developed a laser that may have practical applications in telecommunications, medicine, manufacturing, and other industries.

Dr. Van Howe says the pulse laser is about the size of a shoebox. And it creates a special range of the color red, in VERY short periods of time. For example, he says television pixels are on for one-thirtieth of a second, while his laser is only on for one-trillionth of a second or less. "There are others out there, but not like ours which is flexible, with variable speed and range of color, which the other lasers can't do. Or if they can, they're really expensive." 

People who are exploring the possibilities of micro-machining are interested in their pulse laser. "You could cut a tiny hole with no heat and no heat damage. You're really ripping electrons from the atoms." That process is called, athermal laser ablation.

Van Howe recently published an article about their new pulse laser in the Journal of Lightwave Technology.