Space

August 15, 2012

Ultrafast pulsed lasers … more than just a light show

A Navy ship at sea is surrounded by water, with nothing but its carrier group in site, and searches the skies for activity overhead. Isolated radars on each ship in the group scan independently of each other with limited effectiveness.

But consider if all of the ships’ radars could be coherently linked to function as one. Such a capability would improve the range and resolution of each radar system, making it possible to identify and characterize objects further away and with greater fidelity.

Conventional X-ray machines provide images of bones and organs that help doctors make crucial decisions regarding patient care. They cannot, however, resolve structures at the cellular level. Imagine having access to a table-top x-ray imager that could not only image a single cell, but also the nucleus, ribosomes and other components that make it up; and not only as a flat image, but in 3-D. Such information would be invaluable for testing responses to candidate drugs and discovering new treatments.

These two very different applications are not science fiction and could be enabled by the same basic technology: ultrafast, pulsed lasers operating at optical wavelengths.

These kinds of pulsed lasers are known as frequency combs because they are composed of thousands of individual laser lines, equally separated in frequency like the teeth of a comb. DARPA seeks to control the entire electromagnetic spectrum by using frequency combs to generate and engineer waves in the optical domain and then down or up-convert those waveforms to the desired wavelength. Such technology has many potential applications relevant to the Department of Defense, such as low phase noise microwave oscillators for secure communications, explosive and chemical agent detection, and the production of attosecond (10-18s) pulses for imaging the motion of electrons in complex materials.

Many of the techniques that underlie these applications have been demonstrated, but are currently unsuitable for practical use because they are restricted to a laboratory setting. DARPA’s Program in Ultrafast Laser Science and Engineering (PULSE) aims to enable synchronization, metrology and communications applications for DoD by advancing compact, high power and environmentally insensitive frequency comb technology, as well as the science underlying these applications. Achieving these goals will require input from researchers across a broad spectrum of disciplines. Potential proposers are encouraged to review and respond to the PULSE Broad Agency Announcement.

“PULSE is a basic research program initially focused on component technology. Our primary concern isn’t demonstrating a specific application, rather making these tools a reality at a practical scale by overcoming current obstacles like size and thermal management,” said Jamil Abo-Shaeer, DARPA program manager for PULSE. “The range of potential applications is enormous. Literally any technology that uses electromagnetic radiation could be impacted.”

Low phase noise microwave oscillators represent one potential application of the high frequency stability provided by optical frequency combs. Under PULSE, DARPA will pursue enabling technologies to reduce comb size. One possible approach involves recently demonstrated, chip-based optical frequency combs that were generated from micron-scale optical resonators. However, while such combs potentially offer a vast reduction in form-factor compared with conventional technology, they have yet to demonstrate the stability and bandwidth required for low phase noise microwave oscillator production.

At the other end of the spectrum, PULSE will explore how to capitalize on the high intensity obtainable from pulsed lasers for applications like x-ray imaging. PULSE aims to enhance the capabilities of tabletop, high-peak power, pulsed-laser driven x-ray generation techniques; these sources should produce high flux, coherent x-rays with wavelengths in the water-window (2.3 to 4.4 nm) for biological imaging applications. At present, these types of x-rays can only be generated by a few building-sized machines, thus limiting the range of applications.

As a fundamental research program, PULSE welcomes proposals from U.S. and international researchers and is expected to span over a five year time-scale. For detailed information, please review the BAA at: http://go.usa.gov/G71. Proposal abstracts are due by 4 p.m., EDT, Sept. 6, 2012. Full proposals are due by 4 p.m., EDT, Nov. 6, 2012.

 




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 
Lockheed Martin photograph

Lockheed Martin successfully mates NOAA GOES-R satellite modules

Lockheed Martin photograph Lockheed Martin successfully mated together the large system and propulsion modules of the first GOES-R series weather satellite at the companyís Space Systems facilities near Denver, Colo. A team of...
 
 
Image courtesy of NASA/GSFC

NASA Mars spacecraft ready for Sept. 21 orbit insertion

NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution spacecraft is nearing its scheduled Sept. 21 insertion into Martian orbit after completing a 10-month interplanetary journey of 442 million miles. Flight Controllers at Lockheed M...
 
 

Lockheed Martin-built CLIO satellite successfully launched

The U.S. government’s CLIO satellite, designed and built by Lockheed Martin, was successfully launched today from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. Lift-off occurred at 6:10 p.m., MDT, aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V launch vehicle. Initial contact with the satellite was confirmed at 9:08 p.m., MDT. The CLIO system is based on innovative...
 

 

ULA launches 60th Mission from Cape Canaveral

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the CLIO mission for Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company launched at 8:10†p.m., EDT, Sept. 16 from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. “It is an honor to work with Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company and all of our mission partners to launch this...
 
 
Image courtesy of NASA, ESA, STScI-RCC14-41a

Hubble helps find smallest known galaxy containing supermassive black hole

Image courtesy of NASA, ESA, STScI-RCC14-41a Artist’s View of M60-UCD1 Black Hole.   Astronomers using data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and ground observation have found an unlikely object in an improbable p...
 
 
Image courtesy of NASA/CXC/M. Weiss

NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory finds planet that makes star act deceptively old

Image courtesy of NASA/CXC/M. Weiss A new study from NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory shows that a giant exoplanet, WASP-18b, is making the star that it orbits very closely act much older than it actually is. This artist&...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>