As with any other tool or machine, it is critically important to monitor laser output (power) to ensure standards of quality and safety. Furthermore, this monitoring should be online and with very small time delays to enable rapid and automatic readjustments as necessary. Current laser metres fall short in several important ways. They are unable to measure power output online without additional components, are quite expensive and have long response times making them unsuitable for many applications. Researchers initiated the ‘Low cost laser power metre with ultra-fast response for continuous online monitoring’ (Laserpom) project to overcome such difficulties. Focus was on development of novel nanomaterials to be deposited or embedded in the substrate. The amount of incident laser light scattered (and not transmitted) by the nanoparticles and its angle-dependent distribution could then be measured and calibrated, provided its behaviour was highly linear, to produce a very sensitive measure of laser power. Investigators developed three low-cost prototype systems based on nanomaterials with optical properties of relevance to three different types of lasers: one operating in the ultraviolet (UV), visual and near-infrared (NIR) range; one fibre-coupled laser; and one carbon dioxide (CO2) cutting laser for welding systems. They then integrated the laser power metre systems into the lasers and measured both linearity of responses (linear correlation of actual power output with measured power over the range of interest) as well as response times with very promising results. Project partners envisage a huge exploitation potential of the laser power metre. Commercialisation should have significant impact on control of laser processes in fields as diverse as manufacturing and biomedicine with important implications for quality and safety.
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5 May 2021