2014 Issue 2, PSI Subsidiary Successes

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

In R&D, persistence is essential. This newsletter highlights successes by one of our subsidiaries: Q-Peak, Inc. Q-Peak is experiencing significant growth as long-sought laser applications are becoming reality; enabled by solid state technology advances.

Q-Peak, Inc. Highlights

A rover carefully places a sample in the test chamber and a brief pulse of green light illuminates and vaporizes a tiny amount of the material allowing spectroscopic analysis of the composition. NASA, needing the technique smaller and lighter for next generation rovers, calls it µLIBS. Q-Peak, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of PSI, has designed the laser source and is working cooperatively to mature the system for the next MARS mission.

Utrafast UV pulses remove bits of silicon creating structural features in MEMS devices with precision unachievable by chemical etching. DARPA seeks the capability to micro-machine silicon, diamond, sapphire, ceramics, and other exceptionally hard materials and Q-Peak has designed the laser source.

A laser beam sweeps across the land from an aircraft at an altitude of 40,000 ft. and the return signal is gathered and processed to create an astonishing high resolution 3-D map of the terrain below. The Air Force Research Laboratory is now driving the design and deployment of Terrain Mapping LADAR systems and Q-Peak has designed the laser source.

These are just a few examples of the laser applications that Q-Peak’s programs are addressing. There are many other exciting development projects as well.

Rangefinder variant of the NASA design. Diameter is 0.5 in

Q-Peak not only strives to provide leading edge laser science and research in our STTR/SBIR programs and in our sponsored research efforts, but we are carrying these developmental lasers forward in their technical maturity to provide engineered hardware to systems customers. In short, a new vibe and involvement is creating opportunities for the company to serve both our longstanding laser science and research customers as well as bring the technologies forward into engineering development.

Over the last three years, Q-Peak has doubled revenues and doubled the skilled technical staff level as well. We have upgraded our computer facilities, both hardware and software, enabling greater capability in Finite Element Analysis (FEA), optical and laser analysis, and waveguide modeling and simulation. We now possess significantly increased capability in fiber manipulation with the addition of mul-tiple new fiber fusion machines. We are building a small Class 10k Clean Room (with Class 100 Flow Booths) to control the environmental exposure of sensitive parts and com-ponents to contamination during their manufacture and assembly.

pump head assembly
NASA µLIBS internal layout and pump head assembly

Q-Peak’s portfolio of intellectual property is enabling our continued involvement in new research and programs. They range from “cool” interesting designs to fundamental new insights into the underlying principles in laser science. Multiple patent applications have been created as we continue to improve our understanding of Thulium doped Silica fiber lasers. We are seeking patent protection for several small, lightweight, diode pumped designs about the size of a matchbox for NASA. New optical materials are enabling novel approaches to coherent light generation. Instead of using second harmonic generation to generate green output from the fundamental light from a 1 micron Neodymium doped Yttrium Lithium Fluoride (YLF) resonator, we use a Potassium Titanyl Phosphate (KTP) Optical Parametric Oscillator (OPO) to generate eye-safe pulses for use as a rangefinder source.

Many LADAR systems require a short pulse (1ns) to provide precise range resolution at a high repetition rate. Passively Q-switched technology has a large timing jitter and is not commercially available. Q-Peak developed its own Short Pulse Oscillator (SPO) as the source in a highly integrated fiber coupled diode pumped architecture that is actively Q-switched (eliminating jitter) while generating ~750ps pulses at 20kHz. The µLIBS design can be applied to a range of different wavelengths and output powers with spectral agility.

Short Pulse Oscillator

Exciting ongoing programs in new gain materials, ceramic based gain media, ceramic optical isolators, and using Cr:ZnSe as the new ultrafast gain host in the mid-IR are only a few examples of our exploratory research activities. Fiber lasers offer exciting technology solutions as LIDAR sources at 1.6 microns, at 2 microns for laser/amplifiers, and as 3 micron laser sources. The coup de grace is an all fiber laser designed to generate light from UV to LWIR in a single source. A basic research program from the Office of Naval Research is supporting the development of a Photonic Crystal Source to generate continuous UV through LWIR super-continuum light from a single system.

Q-Peak sees the recent growth in both science and engineering programs continuing over the coming year and we expect to add another 6-10 staff members, extend engineering capabilities toward test and evaluation of engineered systems, and aggressively pursue opportunities with primes as well as the government research teams in these very competitive budgetary times.

Eric Park
For more information on Q-Peak’s capabilities, please contact Eric Park at epark@qpeak.com.