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Air Force

Ultra-high performance chalcogenide laser source

Method of producing doped solid optical materials which significantly reduces cost, increases speed of production, and dramatically improves material performance

Photonics Materials

The Hot Isostatic Pressed Laser and Scintillator Materials technology developed by the Air ForceAir Force researchers have developed a method to produce high performance doped solid optical materials using hot isostatic pressing (HIP) to drive the diffusion of transition metal ions into chalcogenide laser host crystals, such as Chromium (Cr), Iron (Fe), Cobalt (Co) or Nickel (Ni) into Zinc Selenide (ZnSe). The resulting doped crystals provide an unparalleled increase in performance over the current state of the art with significantly reduced manufacturing cost and increased throughput. For the case of Cr:ZnSe, crystals produced using the technique have resulted in diffusion rates of 5.48E-8 cm2/s and sub 140 picometer (pm) linewidth resolution, equating to 100x faster diffusion and 350x narrower linewidth than commercially available Cr:ZnSe. Early results with iron doped zinc selenide (Fe:ZnSe) have produced similarly promising results, with a measured linewidth of less than 300 pm as compared to 50 nanometers in the untreated crystal.

The method provides a controlled and efficient, post crystal growth diffusion via a two step process of sputter deposition and hot isostatic pressing. Undoped polycrystalline chemical vapor deposition grown crystals are polished to optical quality, then sputter coated with Cr, Fe, or other transition metal before being placed directly in a HIP chamber for subsequent HIP treatment to facilitate diffusion. This straightforward process is easily scalable for batch operations and considerably faster than current manufacturing methods which involve vacuum heat treatment for up to weeks at a time. The same method may be extended to other alloyed optical materials and potentially to alloys with graded doping requirements which may be difficult or not possible to produce by other means. The HIP process has also been applied to currently available Cr:ZnSe materials (without additional Cr sputtering) with equivalent performance increases demonstrated.

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