CEO supports SLAC’s Matter in Extreme Conditions Instrument Upgrade

Northrop Grumman Cutting Edge Optronics (CEO) recently delivered high energy DPSS Nd:YLF laser modules to the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in support of the Matter in Extreme Conditions (MEC) instrument upgrade at the Linac Coherent Light Source (LCLS) facility in Menlo Park, California. The laser modules were utilized in a newly designed diode pumped front-end that helped contribute to the instrument’s 3x energy increase and optical laser pulse refinement.

Figure 1: Enhanced ability to tailor the shape of the laser pulses is demonstrated by spelling “M-E-C” in a plot of laser intensity vs. time. Pluses courtesy of SLAC.

CEO laser engineers assisted Marc Welch, a MEC laser engineer, with the design of the single- and double-passed amplifier sections of the laser, which were then further amplified downstream. MEC scientists also built an automated system for precise pulse shaping (Figure 1) of the laser pulses, enabling users’ greater flexibility and control over the pulse shapes used in their experiments. The rock solid stability of CEO’s PowerPulseTM laser modules, along with CEO’s internally-designed and manufactured eDriveTM laser diode control electronics contributed to the improvement in the overall stability of MEC’s high energy laser system.

The SLAC-built, new DPSS front end utilizes CEO’s Nd:YLF modules and enables significant improvement to the laser’s spatial profile (Figure 2), going from ± 10% fluctuations in pulse energy when it used flash-lamp pumped Nd:YAG modules to a smooth spatial profile with better than ± 2% pulse energy stability. SLAC previously had to shape the amplified pulses using a manual, shot-to-shot iterative process. With such gross energy fluctuations from one pulse to the next, it made this ‘trial and error’ process even more challenging. Using DPSS laser modules with their inherent stability allowed SLAC to take full advantage of their new automated temporal pulse shaping and fulfill users’ requests for custom pulses practically ‘on the fly’.

Figure 2: Pre-Upgrade (left beam profile): commercial flashlamp-pumped amplifier system producing irregular spatial profile and ±10% energy fluctuations. Post-Upgrade (right beam profile): custom SLAC built diode-pumped amplifier system producing smooth spatial profile with ±2% energy fluctuations. Beam profiles and data courtesy of SLAC.

“Our work assisting the MEC instrument upgrade is indicative of the work we do every day at CEO,” Says Donna Berns, Technical Sales Manager at CEO. “The foundation of our business has been built on working closely with clients to provide them with long lasting solutions to their technical issues,” Berns continues. “In the case of the MEC instrument upgrade, we were able to provide technical support and transition the front end of the laser from flash-lamp technology to a higher energy and more stable DPSS platform. The upgrade will allow researchers to explore unsolved questions in fusion energy, plasma physics and materials science through more intense-pressure experimental conditions. It is exciting to imagine the discoveries this instrument will help produce.”

CEO is a vertically-integrated laser manufacturer, and controls all aspects of DPSS module and laser production at its facility in St. Charles, MO, USA. All laser diode arrays that are used in PowerPulse laser modules are fabricated in the same facility where the modules are built. Every diode bar lot undergoes extensive characterization and life testing to ensure that every array used in a CEO laser module is of high quality. This allows the laser module designers and laser production managers to select diode arrays that are ideally suited for the module being built and its intended application, such as the MEC instrument upgrade. With over two decades experience, CEO has fielded over 10,000 laser modules in commercial, industrial, military and aerospace installations. Our laser diode lifetimes routinely exceed 15,000 hours for CW-pumped operation and 10 billion shots for pulse-pumped operation.

Nd:YLF modules similar to the ones incorporated into MEC optical laser front end are used in CEO’s own ultrafast amplifier pump lasers, along with the same eDrive laser control electronics.  These laser systems have unparalleled reliability, stability and pulse energy and are used to pump Ti:Sapphire ultrafast amplifiers in many of the world’s leading physics and chemistry laboratories.

Approved for Public Release 17-2296
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Northrop Grumman-Cutting Edge Optronics (CEO) a leading supplier of state-of-the-art laser diode arrays and laser system hardware.
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