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More Accessible Ultraviolet (UV) Lasers Open Up New Possibilities

 

High-energy UV photons allow for improved precision and performance

 

UV lasers have traditionally been exceptionally expensive and large

 

A new generation of small, more affordable UV lasers are increasingly accessible

 

Allows for advancements in semiconductor inspection, microscopy, and disinfection

Many laser optics applications are shifting towards using shorter UV wavelengths because it allows for improved resolution and very small and precise feature generation with minimal heating to surrounding areas. Until recently, the high cost and bulky size of continuous wave (CW) UV laser sources have traditionally prevented them from being used in many situations, especially in university research. Now, a new wave of compact, cost-effective UV lasers has broken down this barrier, resulting in an expansion of UV applications ranging from micromachining, to UV Raman spectroscopy, to disinfection for the inactivation of pathogens.

Why Use UV Lasers?

UV lasers can achieve higher spatial resolutions than infrared or visible lasers because focused laser spot size is proportional to wavelength. This allows them to be used in precise defect inspection in the semiconductor industry or in micromachining. When processing many materials, UV lasers can directly break atomic bonds rather than vaporizing or melting material, resulting in reduced peripheral heating. The high energies of UV wavelengths are ideal for exciting fluorescence in biomolecules including proteins, which is useful in a wide range of biomedical applications. Additionally, UV lasers can be used in highly-effective disinfection systems because they can sanitize surfaces by delivering high-power UVC radiation (wavelengths between 200 - 280 nm) more efficiently than UVC lamps or LEDs.1

disinfecting surfaces to eliminate potential pathogens
UV lasers are highly beneficial in a wide range of applications including fluorescence microscopy biomedical systems
Figure 1: UV lasers are highly beneficial in a wide range of applications including fluorescence microscopy biomedical systems (left) and disinfecting surfaces to eliminate potential pathogens (right).1

What Is Wrong with Older UV Laser Technologies?

Continuous-wave (CW) UV lasers have traditionally functioned by using ionized argon gas as the gain medium or frequency quadrupling near-infrared neodymium lasers. Frequency quadrupled systems require two external resonant cavities to double the frequency of the initial beam once, then repeat this process in an additional cavity.2 These systems are complex and both them and argon ion lasers are at least as large as two shoeboxes, which prevents them from being used in portable devices.

The New Generation of Accessible UV Lasers

Advances in UV laser technology have resulted in smaller, less expensive devices. New, praseodymium-doped yttrium lithium fluoride (YLF) lasers developed by UVC Photonics produce a 261nm laser beam through frequency doubling rather than frequency quadrupling (Figure 2).2 This greatly reduces system complexity and the number of components required. These lasers operate similarly to laser diodes and do not require complicated electronics for locking resonance cavities or stabilizing temperatures.

Compact UV lasers from UVC Photonics consist of a blue pump diode, a praseodymium crystal, another crystal for second-harmonic generation (SHG), and a cavity output mirror.<sup>2</sup><br>Image courtesy of UVC Photonics. Compact UV lasers from UVC Photonics consist of a blue pump diode, a praseodymium crystal, another crystal for second-harmonic generation (SHG), and a cavity output mirror.2Image courtesy of UVC Photonics.
Figure 2: Compact UV lasers from UVC Photonics consist of a blue pump diode, a praseodymium crystal, another crystal for second-harmonic generation (SHG), and a cavity output mirror.2
Image courtesy of UVC Photonics.

Lasers from UVC Photonics achieve >10mW of CW power at 261nm, consume less than 5W of power to operate, and are only 22 x 24 x 71mm in size.1 These properties make them ideal for portable or handheld systems, as well as university labs and industrial applications where other UV laser sources are cost-prohibitive. Argon ion lasers typically consume 10's of kW of power and produce 10’s of W of power, while frequency quadrupled UV lasers can produce up to 500mW and greater. While the older technologies can achieve higher powers, their significantly greater size and cost makes them less attractive options for certain applications. The narrow linewidth and CW functionality of these diode modules also makes them well-suited for UV ultraviolet Raman spectroscopy. More information can be found at UVC Photonics’ website.

UV Laser Optics by Edmund Optics®

Edmund Optics® designs and manufactures a wide range of laser optics components including those tailored for UV wavelengths. Tight surface tolerances and high laser damage thresholds allow our UV laser optics to meet the demanding needs of UV laser systems. Many optical components designed for use at 266nm (the fourth harmonic of Nd:YAG lasers) also work well at 261nm. Custom coatings and component geometries can also be tailored for your specific application.

Optics for 261.4nm Lasers

  • Lenses, Mirrors, and Windows Designed for 261.4nm
  • High Damage Thresholds to Withstand High Energy UV Photons
  • Ideal for Use with the UVC Photonics Model 261 Laser
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Nd:YAG Laser Line Mirrors

  • >99.2% Reflectivity at Nd:YAG Harmonic Frequencies, Including 266nm
  • High Laser Induced Damage Threshold Specifications
  • 10-5 Surface Quality for Reduced Scatter in Sensitive Laser Applications
techspec

Concave Laser Line Mirrors

  • Ideal for Focusing Laser Light
  • >99.8% Reflectivity at Center Wavelength
  • High Thermal Stability Fused Silica Substrates
  • 266nm Designs Available
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IBS Laser Line Mirrors

  • IBS Mirror Coatings for Low Loss and High Reflectivity
  • Certified High Laser Damage Threshold
  • Superpolished Substrates Available with Parts per Million Level Scattering Performance
  • 266nm Designs Available
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Precision Ultraviolet Mirrors

  • 120nm and 190nm Design Wavelengths
  • Average Reflectivity >85% Across Specified Range
  • Enhanced Metallic Coatings for Broadband Reflectivity through the Visible Region
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Laser Line λ/20 High Tolerance Right Angle Mirrors

  • >99.5% Reflectivity at the Design Wavelength
  • ±15 Arcsecond Angular Tolerance
  • High Thermal Stability Substrates
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Laser Grade Plano-Convex (PCX) Lenses

  • Guaranteed Laser Damage Threshold
  • 10-5 Surface Quality
  • λ/10 Surface Accuracy
  • 266nm Designs
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Laser Grade Laser Line Cylinder Lenses

  • <0.25% AR Coated for Nd:YAG Harmonics
  • Fused Silica Substrate
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Hard Coated OD 4.0 5nm Bandpass Filters

  • Deep Blocking and High Transmission
  • Steep Transmission and Rejection Slopes
  • Hard Coated OD 4.0 10nm, 25nm and 50nm Bandpass Filters Also Available
  • 266NM Designs Available
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λ/20 High Power Laser Line Windows

  • R < 0.25% for 266nm, 355nm, 532nm or 1064nm
  • Low Auto-Fluorescence
  • Damage Thresholds up to 10 J/cm2 @ 10ns @ 1064nm
techspec

λ/10 Laser Line Coated Windows

  • 10-5 Surface Quality
  • Damage Thresholds at Design Wavelengths
  • Diameters from 12.5 to 50.8mm Available
  • 266nm Designs Available
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Vega™ Laser Line Beam Expanders

  • AR Coated for Laser Wavelengths: 266nm, 355nm, 405nm, 532nm, 1064nm, and 1940nm
  • Fixed Magnifications Available from 1.5X to 20X
  • Divergence Adjustable through Rotating Optical Design

And much more!

References

  1. UVC Photonics (2021). Deep Ultraviolet Laser Modules. UVC Photonics Corporation. www.uvcphotonics.com.
  2. Buchter, Scott (2021). Compact deep-ultraviolet CW lasers lead to new commercial applications. Laser Focus World. www.laserfocusworld.com/lasers-sources/article/14205517/compact-deepultraviolet-cw-lasers-lead-to-new-commercial-applications.

FAQs

FAQ  Why is the laser technology utilized by UVC Photonics not more widespread?
It is remarkably challenging to grow the praseodymium-doped fluoride crystals used in this new generation of UV lasers while achieving the quality and consistency needed for commercial use.2 UVC Photonics is differentiated from others in the industry because of their ability to properly grow these crystals.
FAQ  Are some applications moving to wavelengths shorter than 261nm?

Yes, certain high-precision laboratory applications are moving to extreme ultraviolet (EUV) wavelengths from 10-100 nm, although this is not yet widely used in industry. Learn more about this trend here.

FAQ  Do optical components used with UV lasers degrade over time?

Yes, the high energy of UV laser radiation degrades optical coatings and substrates over time, essentially making UV laser optics consumable components.

Technical Resources

Application Notes

Technical information and application examples including theoretical explanations, equations, graphical illustrations, and much more.

UV Optics: Tighter Tolerances and Different Materials
Read  

Why Laser Damage Testing is Critical for UV Laser Applications
Read  

Understanding and Specifying LIDT of Laser Components
Read  

Key Parameters of a Laser System
Read  

Metrology for Laser Optics
Read  

Videos

Informative corporate or instructional videos ranging from simple tips to application-based demonstrations of product advantages.

Introduction to Laser Optics Lab 
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Metrology at Edmund Optics: Measuring as a Key Component of Manufacturing 
Watch  

Webinars

Recorded webinars from Edmund Optics® experts on a wide range of optics and imaging topics.

High Reflectivity Mirrors for Laser Applications 
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Ultra-Low Surface Roughness Polishing 
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