NASA Langley Licenses Laser Technology
originally developed for studying Earth's atmosphere from space has
been licensed to a U.S. company to increase the reliability of
lasers used for everything from medical applications and product
fabrication to detection of gas leaks.
NASA Langley Research
Center, Hampton, Va., has licensed the technology to Big Sky Laser
Technologies, Inc., Bozeman, Mont.
As more and more laser users
are taking lasers out of the lab and into industrial applications,
NASA "laser protection circuit" technology promises to allow lasers
to perform more reliably in real-world applications. Expected
applications include monitoring pollution and tracking its sources;
detection of methane and other hazardous gas leaks; use in the
offices of dermatologists, medical doctors, and plastic surgeons;
use in factories for fabrication, marking and laser cleaning; and
for a world of applications that have not been thought of yet.
"These applications will
better the lives of people by making the world cleaner and safer,
and by making products cheaper and better," said George E. Lockard
of the NASA Langley Remote Sensing Technology Branch.
Lockard invented the
patented technology as part of his work on developing a high energy
laser for measuring atmospheric water vapor, clouds and aerosols.
The high energy laser had a propensity to damage itself, so, with
recommendations from branch head James C. Barnes, Lockard designed
the laser protection circuit.
Lasers equipped with this
technology will shut down automatically when the circuit detects a
condition which can lead to self-destructive energy pulses, as when
significant laser energy is reflected back into the device. This
condition can cause serious damage to optical components and
valuable downtime for repair.
Big Sky is modifying an
existing line of miniaturized lasers with the technology.
applications for the modified laser include LIDAR, remote sensing,
eyesafe illumination, ablation, laser marking, and laser splitting
of molecules for observation of light emission.
When Big Sky engineers
determined that NASA Langley's laser protection circuit technology
would be of value in their product lines, they contacted NASA-MSU
TechLink, a technology transfer and commercialization partnership
between NASA and Montana State University. TechLink facilitated the
next steps and continues to assist the company in commercial
development and application of the technology into other company
Big Sky is a developer of
commercial and developmental turn-key laser systems, as well as a
provider of laser damage testing services. The company's laser
systems are being used in medicine, ranging, imaging, artwork
restoration, laser cleaning, remote sensing, environmental
sciences, process control, spectroscopy and more, and have been
used by NASA to track space shuttle and rocket launches.
- end -