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Tuning in to Europe's ultrafast lasers

European researchers have made a notable breakthrough by developing a laser source with the performance parameters the market demands. It has the potential to open up new medical applications, in both clinical and everyday life settings.
Tuning in to Europe's ultrafast lasers
Ultrafast laser technology in the multi-femtosecond range is really fast. One femtosecond is just one quadrillionth — or just one millionth of one billionth — of a second. Typically used for scientific research, ultrafast lasers also offer advantages for many commercial applications.

However, until now the key features of femtosecond laser systems were difficult to achieve. The aim of the 'High-power, low-noise, ultrafast tunable laser sources using supercontinuum generation' (ULTRATUNE) project, funded by the EU, was to research and develop a novel pulse laser for use in biomedical applications.

The development of such ultrafast lasers has highly practical significance in the evolution of numerous scientific and medical areas, and in particular for biophotonics, non-invasive diagnostic methods and nano-resolved surgery. By exploiting the latest developments in solid-state lasers alongside recent advances in fibre technologies, the ULTRATUNE project could provide the necessary new high-performance architecture.

Using this approach, the project has developed a compact, affordable ultrafast laser source that is both high-power and low-noise, features not achievable using the current techniques. Such improved performance has triggered significant interest in the laser community regarding the novel tuneable ultrafast technology.

Furthermore, the very first prototype of the new laser with its novel technology has been installed in a European research laboratory. By using the new system, researchers have already achieved the first, very promising results in a non-linear microscopy application for obtaining deeper three-dimensional (3D) optical images of living cells.

The benefits for medicine in particular and our daily lives in general could be substantial once the potential of the new technology has been fully exploited.

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