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Rose-Hulman gets laser lab

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

A new $1 million high energy, laser laboratory at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology will enable faculty and students to use the latest in ultrashort pulse laser technology for applications that include improving military defense systems, detecting biological and chemical agents, and commercial uses in the biomedical and communications fields.

The Ultrashort Pulse Laser Laboratory is the result of one of many collaborative programs involving Rose-Hulman and the Crane Division, Naval Surface Warfare Center at Crane, Ind.

Funding for the laboratory came through the Navy Research, Development, Test and Evaluation Program.

"This lab is different from the small number of ultrashort pulse laser (USPL) labs operating at other campuses for two important reasons," noted Galen Duree, associate professor of physics and optical engineering at Rose-Hulman, who will direct the projects in the laboratory.

"First, our work will concentrate on developing applications for the use of ultrashort pulse lasers rather than focusing our efforts solely on theory. Second, undergraduate students will play a major role in our projects The students are gaining experience with state-of-the-art nonlinear laser technology," Duree said.

"The laser generates light pulses that last 50 femtoseconds.

If you take one second and divide it into one hundred trillion equal intervals, the laser is on for five of these intervals," Duree explained.

"This period of time is so short that when the light encounters an atom, it leaves before the atom can respond," he said. "This system concentrates so much energy in a short time interval, that it enables us to investigate a wide area of laser applications; giving us a tremendous advantage as we investigate applications in areas such as biomedics, photonics, material processing, and others.

The partnership with Crane is focused on two issues, according to Duree. One is to assist Crane in developing USPL applications of military value. The second is to find ways of delivering the resulting technology to the soldiers in the field as quickly as possible.

Duree said work is being done to use the technology to support the missile countermeasure efforts at Crane. The USPL technology is also being applied to create systems to improve the detection and neutralization of improvised explosive devices such as roadside bombs, and to develop new methods to detect biological and chemical agents.

"These same detection schemes can also be adapted to look for other items of interest to law enforcement officials such as by-products from methamphetamine production or concealed firearms," noted Duree.

Don Schulte, head of the Ordnance Engineering Department of the Crane Division, Naval Surface Warfare Center, stated, "I am excited about the opportunities that this team has to rapidly transition products and technology to meet current and future needs of our warfighters."

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