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Alfalight receives $3.8 million Air Force laser contract

Madison, Wis.Alfalight, a manufacturer of high-powered diode lasers, announced on Tuesday it has received a $3.8 million research and development contract with the Air Force research laboratory in New Mexico. The lab wants Alfalight to, over the next 18 months, develop a multimode laser with an output wavelength that can tolerate changes in temperature, current, and manufacturing variations.

“This grant from the Air Force allows us to do valuable developmental work…in producing a laser bar for higher power,” said Robert Williamson, Alfalight’s director of business development. “It’s a great contract on a government and commercial level.”

In developing this project, Alfalight will put a holographic feedback system into the cavity of the laser. This will help to stabilize the wavelength and narrow the linewidth of the laser beam, determining the output with better precision. Since the optical feedback system will be built as part of the laser body, it will improve the manufacturing yield with no major cost, the company said.

Alfalight expects to be able to make advancements in commercial and defense laser designs. Williamson said that by developing new pumping schemes to drive the light into fiber crystals, the control of the laser beams is improved to the point where they can be layered on top of each other. These improved lasers can then be applied in fields such as industrial welding and cutting of materials, micro-machining, and semiconductor processing.

“This effort builds on Alfalight's previous successful development programs,” U.S. Senator Herb Kohl, a Democrat from Wisconsin and a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said in a statement. “The achievement of this project's goals will lead to improved laser performance and innovative new types of laser systems, and holds the promise of increased jobs and market share that will greatly benefit the company and the state.”
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Last October, Alfalight received a $3.9 million grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, DARPA, as part of the Super High Efficiency Diode Source program. They demonstrated 65 percent total power conversion efficiency for 970-nanometer laser material, and are attempting to meet a goal of 80 percent in the next 18 months.

Williamson credited the grants and contracts for giving Alfalight the necessary resources to move forward. “There’s a broad range of various outputs … [the grants] enable us to have differentiated technology that does not exist right now,” he said.

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