Femtosecond Laser Clones Itself In Glass

When researchers at the Galatea laboratory in Switzerland set out to create a femtosecond laser in glass they weren’t certain it was going to work. To be precise, their goal was to create a femtosecond laser cavity using carefully aligned optics. Rather than using the traditional, discrete method, they used a commercial femtosecond laser to carve out the elements of the optical cavity in glass. The choice for glass came down to the low thermal expansion of this material, and it being transparent for the optical frequencies being targeted.

Generic concept of an “all-glass” optical device, with the various stages of fabrication. (Credit: Antoine Delgoffe et al., 2023)
Generic concept of an “all-glass” optical device, with the various stages of fabrication. (Credit: Antoine Delgoffe et al., 2023)

Even after using the existing laser to create the rough laser cavity, the resulting optical mirrors were not aligned properly, but this was all part of the plan.

By also adding slots that created a flexure mechanism, brief laser pulses could be used to gradually adjust the mirrors to create the perfect alignment. During subsequent testing of the newly created laser cavity it was found to be operating as expected. The original femtosecond laser had successfully created a new femtosecond laser.

Perhaps the most tantalizing aspect of this research is that this could enable much faster and ultimately cheaper production of such laser systems, especially once the tedious and currently completely manual mirror alignment procedure is automated. In addition, it raises the prospect of producing other types of optics including splitters and guides in a similar manner.

Drilling Glass With Femtosecond Lasers Just Got Even Better

Glass! It’s a finicky thing. Strong as hell, yet chip it and glance at it the wrong way, and you’re left with a bunch of sharp rubbish. It’s at once adored for its clarity and smoothness, and decried for how temperamental it can be in the case of shock, whether mechanical, thermal, or otherwise.

If you’ve ever tried to drill glass, you’ll know it’s a tough errand. To do so without cracking it is about as likely as winning the lottery on Mars. Even lasers aren’t great at it. However, a research team from France has developed a new technique that uses femtosecond lasers to drill microscopic holes in glass with a minimum of tapering and no cracking! Brilliant, no?
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