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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/Y011422/1
Title: Diode-Pumped Solid-State Frequency Combs for Classical and Quantum Applications
Principal Investigator: Reid, Professor D
Other Investigators:
Saleh, Dr M McCracken, Dr RA
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Dr H Ostapenko
Project Partners:
Attochron Chromacity Ltd. Renishaw
Skylark Lasers Thorlabs Ltd UK Astronomy Technology Centre
University of Birmingham
Department: Sch of Engineering and Physical Science
Organisation: Heriot-Watt University
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 March 2024 Ends: 31 August 2027 Value (£): 740,164
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Lasers & Optics
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
19 Sep 2023 EPSRC Physical Sciences Prioritisation Panel - September 2023 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
Ultrafast lasers, those producing TIME-DOMAIN periodic sequences of ~100 femtosecond-duration pulses, also exhibit remarkable properties in the FREQUENCY DOMAIN, in which as "frequency combs" they serve as "wavelength rulers", enabling precision measurements of wavelength for spectroscopic and metrology applications.

Despite maturing fibre-comb technology and steady progress in integrated optical combs, there is still no universal paradigm for the robust, compact and modular frequency-comb sources that are urgently needed for integration in future systems like optical atomic clocks.

Building on recent EPSRC-funded research, which led to exciting new concepts in diode-pumped Kerr-lens-modelocked laser designs and engineering, we propose to develop a versatile and robust laser-frequency-comb architecture with broad applicability to a variety of industrial and academic sectors.

We focus on GHz-rate diode-pumped solid-state ultrafast lasers as a platform technology offering efficiency, small size, robustness, high average powers, short pulses, low phase noise and high modal powers directly from the laser -- a suite of parameters which makes these lasers attractive for diverse applications in navigation, communications, dimensional metrology, spectroscopy and defence.

Our programme envisions a platform technology that extends our recent demonstration of diode-pumped three-element Kerr-lens-modelocked Ti:sapphire laser architectures (800 nm) to Er,Yb:glass (1560 nm) and Cr:ZnSe (2400 nm), with designs optimised by Kerr-nonlinearity modelling.

The wavelength coverage of these lasers will be enhanced by using tapered-fibres to generate broadband supercontinua from nJ pulses. Power-scaling in semiconductor optical amplifiers -- a technology perfectly matched to GHz-pulse amplification -- will be explored as a route to ultra-compact, high-power GHz systems.

By adapting the 3-element laser design to configure two lasers in one cavity, we will demonstrate a simple and powerful dual-comb embodiment for high-speed distance metrology and spectroscopy.

Proven designs will be progressed to higher TRL by using our proprietary micro-optical bonding technique to realise high-stability, self-starting laser configurations, suitable for evaluation and integration in applications.

The project is supported by 8 academic and industrial partners who have offered cash and in-kind contributions totalling >£3M, representing considerable co-funding alongside EPSRC's investment. Their letters of support evidence the significance of the proposed technology for their businesses and illustrate their commitment to our research and development programme.

As well as creating new academic knowledge and significant new engineering capabilities, the application of the compact ultrafast laser technologies we propose to develop could deliver profound socioeconomic impacts.

For example, integrating compact combs into industrial metrology systems could enable lower-waste digital precision manufacturing; replacing 1550-nm cw lasers with GHz-rate ultrafast lasers could improve the resilience of Tb/s eye-safe free-space communications in all weathers, connecting remote communities; compact mid-IR sources could facilitate low-cost, multi-species sensors for 'net-zero'; and integrable Ti:sapphire combs could power future GNSS systems for distributing standard time and position across the globe.

Each of the above examples maps to an industrial or academic collaboration embodied in our proposed programme of research, thus providing a realistic pathway to each of the impacts described.

Key Findings
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Organisation Website: http://www.hw.ac.uk