The Office of Naval Research has awarded a Colorado State University professor and her academic partners at the University of New Mexico, Stanford University and Jefferson Lab a five-year, $2.5 million Multidisciplinary Research Initiative grant to advance the fundamental understanding and development of interference coatings for high energy lasers.
Professor Carmen Menoni in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Colorado State is the principal investigator on the project, which will seek to develop robust optical coatings for the high average power Free Electron Laser demonstrated at Jefferson Lab in Virginia.
"In a laser, the mirrors that make up the cavity control the laser output power , so advances in the fabrication technology are imperative," Menoni said. "This research is critical for continued improvements in laser technology, from high-power to ultrashort-pulse lasers. This is a billion-dollar industry."
Custom optical coatings are like layers in an onion. The materials that make up the layers are oxides or glass-like materials. The characteristic optical response of the stack of layers is obtained by controlling the thickness of the layers and the type of oxide materials used. An antireflection coating deposited onto reading glasses is an example of a coating with tailored optical response made of ultrathin oxide layers - as are the ones being developed at CSU.
Colorado State University has state-of-the-art facilities for growing and characterizing the thin film stacks. For the growth of the oxide coatings, CSU uses equipment donated by Veeco in 2002. CSU is also well equipped for testing the coating's morphology, optical response and resistance to laser damage using advanced high-power laser systems being developed in-house.
The University of New Mexico has a track record investigating and modeling the role of defects on the optical response of oxide films and their stacks including their laser damage behavior. Stanford University has unique capabilities for the study of ultra-low loss coatings. The collaboration with Jefferson Lab will make possible testing of the coatings inside the Free Electron Laser cavity.
This research program will provide unique opportunities for the training of graduate and undergraduate students. The impact of developing human resources with expertise in areas of technology of interest to the nation's economy is significant. Colorado, in particular, is a hub for a large number of industries specializing in optics and more specifically in optical coatings.