People and Vehicles:Monolithic DBR Laser Diodes for Handheld and Mobile Instruments

Today’s research laser products are large, power-hungry that are perfectly comfortable on an optical bench with a large utility service.  They are designed for maximum flexibility in the laboratory. 


In the center is a Bose-Einstein condensate, a cloud of super-cooled Rubidium atoms in a laser trap…. Actually two stable isotopes of Rubidium (85,87) that differ in weight by two neutrons.

In a game of catch & release, the atoms will shoot up a 30 ft. tall atomic fountain in an experiment to measure the gravitational “constant” across the different masses and hopefully upset Einstein’s theory of general relativity… =)

caption and photo by Jurvetson (flickr)

The spectral purity and diffraction limited optical outputs are used to probe some of the most fundamental properties of nature.  Among the observations that can be made through laser probes are the following:

  1. Isolating single atoms and cooling them to near absolute zero.
  2. Isolating individual molecules to observe the details of chemical reaction.
  3. Probing the electrons in atoms to observe how they are affected by their environment.  This can be used to measure magnetic fields, acceleration, and rotation.  
  4. Probing electrons in atoms to establish frequency standards for atomic clocks, resulting in ever-increasing accuracy in timekeeping.

However, as key concepts are demonstrated in the laboratory and applications envisioned, a pathway must be developed that gets them out of the lab.  Laser engineers and atomic physicists are working together to develop "physics packages" to make these measurements and to develop highly sophisticated instruments to monitor these effects.  These physics packages must ultimately become small and robust enough to get into mobile instruments.  

One of Photodigm's customers who is working on such a physics package is Vescent Photonics.  They have demonstrated a proof of concept that takes the functionality of the messy optical bench shown above, and puts it into a packge the size of a deck of playing cards, as seen below. 


 Proof of concept of a DBR laser-based physics package, developed by Vescent Photonics under a DARPA contract, and published  in 2013.   

The key to mobile instruments will be highly efficient, rugged, and reliable monolithic lasers that can withstand the rigors of mobility and whose production can be economically scaled. Competing products such as hybrid external cavity diode lasers (ECDLs) or volume Bragg grating lasers (VBG) (also known as volume holographic lasers ) will not scale to the low costs necessary for volume applications. ECDLs are lab instruments that do not have the mechanical robustness necessary.Photodigm DBR lasers meet the criteria necessary for use in mobile instruments.  

  Emerging products include the following:

Photodigm is working with our customers as they develop their mobile physics packages.  Our goal is to take the necessary functionality of big research lasers and produce it on a semiconductor. The Photodigm DBR laser offers the pathway to get these instruments onto the volume applications -- onto people and instruments. 

Photodigm Spectroscopy-Certified™ DBR lasers are resonant to atomic transitions of K, Rb, Cs, and metastable He. They are also available at multiple other resonants.  They are available from stock.  


Please contact Photodigm to learn more about these applications and devices.  

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