Element Six to develop ultrafast-pulse disk lasers for precision machining

Santa Clara, CA - Synthetic diamond supermaterials maker Element Six has been selected by the European Commission's Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development to help develop a new ultrafast-pulse disk laser. The new laser will be designed with high average output power to increase productivity and precision in micromachining of transparent materials. As part of the three-year project titled "Ultrafast High-Average Power Ti:Sapphire Thin-Disk Oscillators and Amplifiers" (TiSa:TD), the company will further develop its low-loss, high-purity, single-crystal chemical vapor deposition (CVD) diamond material to rapidly conduct heat off a titanium sapphire (Ti:sapphire) thin disk, which will be used as the laser gain material.

Currently, the most powerful industrial "ultrafast" lasers operate in the picosecond range, which offers sufficient performance for micromachining metals. However, the consortium aims to develop a new femtosecond laser system that allows extremely high precision with higher powers than previously achieved, in order to increase productivity for the micromachining of transparent materials such as glass and ceramics, commonly used in smartphones and tablets. Specifically, collaborators on this project are working to design two high-average-power ultrafast Ti:sapphire thin-disk laser systems--one amplifier system using chirped pulses to obtain high-energy pulses and one high-power oscillator to achieve high repetition rates. Both will have a maximum average output power of at least 200W at a pulse duration of well below 100fs.

To achieve these goals, Ti:sapphire will be used as the laser crystal material, which is optimal for short-pulse laser systems due to the broad bandwidth of its emission--yet it lacks good thermal properties. To combat this challenge, the company will further develop its single-crystal CVD diamond to be mounted to the Ti:sapphire as a heat spreader, improving its thermo-optical effects and allowing it to be pumped at the required higher powers.

For this system application to be successful, further reductions in absorption coefficient of the CVD diamond and an increase in available area will be needed. "To date, our CVD diamond material has been leveraged for a range of commercial solid-state laser systems with great success, demonstrating unparalleled levels of heat extraction—enabling the systems to operate at higher powers with improved beam quality," said Adrian Wilson, director of the technologies group at Element Six. "For Ti:sapphire thin-disk, we have been called upon to further improve our existing crystal CVD diamond, extracting additional value—and we are determined to meet expectations."

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