Background: Electric powered lasers consume a significant amount of energy and only operate at about 1 to 2 percent efficiency. In an effort to conserve energy and expand the application of lasers outside of energy-available locations solar-pumped laser research is growing rapidly and yields technology that harvests commercial potential. Faculty at the University of Arizona have developed a compact efficient solar-powered laser that uses triple junction photovoltaic cells to power semiconductor and mode-locked lasers. Technology Description: Existing solar-pumped lasers use an arc-metal-halide lamp pump that requires bulky concentrating optics and is power inefficient. By using a triple junction photovoltaic cell the laser can produce a sunlight to laser light efficiency of over 10 percent without cooling and concentration optics. Applications: 1) The conversion of sunlight to laser light has been pursued for applications in materials processing (welding cutting marking and engraving) fuel generation power beaming propulsion and free-space telecommunication. 2) There is also great potential to use solar-pumped lasers in space for missile defense or as a source of solar power.
Date of release: