Year/Course: 2007-2008, Lent 2008
Mentor: Dr Marc Bax

Contact: Dr. Andrea FerrariDr. Alexey RozhinClaudio Marinelli, CAPE
Mentors: Marc Bax, Panchromos Limited

The nanoSolutions team has developed a unique composite material using carbon nanotubes and flexible polymers, which can be deployed in a range of photonics applications. The particular application of interest to the i-Team is the use of this material to produce low-cost femtosecond pulse lasers for a variety of applications.

Four patents have been filed for the invention, which enables rapid pulse lasers to be manufactured very simply for a fraction of the cost of current systems. By tuning the system appropriately, the duration of the pulses can be varied between 100-1000 femto-seconds, and the pulse repetition rate can also be modified. The laser wavelength can be in the 1-2 microns range. Working systems are available today for trial by early partners.

There are a wide range of commercial applications for short-pulse lasers, in particular micromachining (for example for rapid prototyping), and biomedical uses for both low-precision and high-precision surgeries. The advantage of an ultrashort pulse (<1ps) laser compared to a short pulse (>1ps) or continuous wave is that the cutting process works differently, and the ultrashort pulse laser will usually produce a cleaner cut with less collateral damage to the surrounding material. In addition, ultrashort pulse lasers are used widely in a number of research fields, including optics, biology, spectroscopy and telecommunications.

The i-Team will need to investigate possible applications of these new nanotube-based photonic composites and the corresponding ultrafast lasers, as well as the specific requirements for the lasers in each application. The first question is whether the laser in its current specification could be used in any real-world applications. The second is which are the most attractive applications for the laser, and what changes would need to be made to address those markets. In addition the researchers are looking for recommendations on whether to look at developing complete laser systems to supply to customers, or simply optical components for incorporation into existing systems.