FEMTOSECOND LASERS/SPECTROSCOPY/OPTICS: Award-winning technologies promise impact on life sciences

Wyvern-HE, a diminutive, single-stage, single-pump Ti:sapphire ultrafast amplifier—capable of performance previously available only through multi-stage designs 50% larger and 40% costlier—is the winner of the 2013 CLEO/Laser Focus World Innovation Award. Kapteyn-Murnane Laboratories (KMLabs, Boulder, CO) was inspired to create the design by researchers at JILA, a joint institute of the University of Colorado at Boulder and the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology. Their work needed high-energy pulses with excellent beam quality to pump an optical parametric amplifier (OPA) that could ultimately generate ultrafast, coherent, high-harmonic x-rays for applications in nano and molecular science as well as imaging and spectroscopy, among others.

Wyvern-HE uses proprietary cryogenic cooling and regenerative amplification to provide pulse energy of more than 9 mJ with less than 45 fs pulse duration, at a 1 kHz repetition rate. The pulses' peak power can reach 0.2 TW, a new record for output directly from a single-stage amplifier. The result is simpler tools for scientific discovery. "For broader appeal, as these systems become more powerful, they must also become more flexible, user-friendly and reliable," said Henry Kapteyn, founder and CEO of KMLabs. According to the company, further innovations are possible as qualified pump lasers become available.

KMLabs will accept the award at the CLEO Plenary Session on Tuesday, June 11, in the San Jose Civic Auditorium. At that time, three other products will be recognized with honorable mentions:

Femtolasers Produktions GmbH's (Vienna, Austria) INTEGRAL Core is the first portable ultrafast (sub-8 fs) Ti:sapphire laser for biomedical applications. Delivering 200 mW average power with 300 MHz pulse repetition, the laser targets terahertz, multiphoton microscopy, OCT, and spectroscopy applications.

Princeton Instruments' (Trenton, NJ) IsoPlane SCT 320 Schmidt-Czerny-Turner spectrograph overcomes the limitations of traditional Czerny-Turner designs by totally eliminating field astigmatism and greatly reducing coma and spherical aberration. Applications include multichannel spectroscopy, microspectroscopy, Raman scattering, fluorescence, photoluminescence, Fourier-domain spectroscopy, and biomedical imaging.

TAG Optics' (Princeton, NJ) TAG Lens 2.0 is an ultra-high-speed varifocal lens that can extend the depth of field of conventional optical systems and enable user-selected focal lengths in microseconds through acoustic refractive-index changes.

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