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The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency has awarded Alfalight, Inc.
, a manufacturer of high-power diode lasers, $4.7 million to develop the next generation diode laser.
The goal of the 18-month project, announced Tuesday, is to produce a multi-kilowatt diode laser system for industrial and military applications. The funding might enable Alfalight to overcome the last remaining hurdle for laser diode technology, which is to improve the beam quality at "very high power operation," said Manoj Kanskar, vice president of research and development for Alfalight.
Alfalight hopes to develop devices capable of generating near-diffraction-limited output power targeted at 50 watts per emitter, and enable a more efficient direct diode laser system for commercial use, according to Ron Bechtold, vice president of sales and marketing for Alfalight. "The quality of the brightness of the beam that comes out of these lasers is extraordinarily high," Bechtold explained. "That would allow a highly efficient laser system using diodes directly."
On the military side, higher efficiency brings higher portability, and perhaps a solution to the Improvised Explosive Devices that have killed and injured American troops in Iraq. "I can't speak on behalf of the Defense Department, but examples might be field-deployable anti-missile or anti-mortar systems, or [protecting against] exploding IEDs," Bechtold said. "If you've got a suspicious package sitting by the side of the road, you don't really want to walk up to it with a stick to see what it's all about."
The program has an additional 9-month follow-on option, which could result in a total value of $6.1 million for Alfalight. The first 18 months will be used to develop the device, itself, and the nine-month extension will be used to demonstrate a prototype system.
More about Alfalight:
Alfalight receives $7 million in expansion funding
Alfalight awarded $4.5 million Army Research contract
Alfalight garners $1.4 million defense funding for diode program
Alfalight finds Chinese distributor for high-power lasers
Alfalight receives $3.8 million Air Force laser contract