QCL design enables the development of compact infrared countermeasure systems that can protect aircraft against next-generation portable surface-to-air missiles.
Researchers at the University of Central Florida have designed a compact, lightweight quantum cascade laser (QCL) that can maintain beam quality and protect against laser facet damage while achieving more than 30 watts of optical power from a single emitter. With such capabilities and continuous-wave (CW) optical power scalability, the new UCF design offers higher performance and efficiency for broad-area applications in the mid‐wave and long‐wave infrared (MWIR/LWIR) regions. For example, the invention’s unique combination of size, weight and power enables its use as an effective defensive countermeasure against shoulder‐fired heat‐seeking missiles and other weapons that use focal plane arrays to target and destroy aircraft.
The UCF invention comprises a broad‐area QCL design for CW optical power scalability and a method of making the QCL, including details for specific device dimensions, configurations, energy specifications and materials. The new design provides for a larger active region depth and injector coupling than either single-phonon, double-phonon or non-resonant extraction designs. In contrast to the bound-to-continuum design, it uses a vertical laser transition. The design also includes a concept for laser packaging that protects against laser facet damage from heating. For example, using the new packaging concept, a device manufacturer could independently collect optical power emitted from two laser facets and then recombine the two beams using one of many possible beam-combining approaches, such as spatial beam combining (placing the two beams close to each other) and polarization beam combining.
In one example configuration, the QCL includes a substrate, a sequence of semiconductor epitaxial layers that define an active region, an injector region, and a waveguide that is optically coupled to the active region. The active region may include multiple stages, with each stage having an upper laser level and a lower laser level to defining respective first and second wave functions.
The research team is looking for partners to develop the technology further for commercialization.
- Compact and lightweight
- Enables higher efficiency, power and reliability
- Can be used to optimize the performance of traditional (narrow ridge) QCLs
- Infrared countermeasures, beacons and target designators
- Plasmonics, metamaterials
- Hyperspectral imaging