Cerium lasers are unique because they produce light that can be tuned across a broad range of wavelengths – particularly spanning the UVB part of the ultraviolet spectrum.
Lasers that produce ultraviolet light are important for applications such as fluorescence sensing. This works because many organic molecules, including proteins, produce characteristic fluorescence signatures under UV laser illumination.
Macquarie University has maintained an extensive long term research program in cerium lasers. This includes lasers that produce continuous output through to systems that produce laser pulses below 10 trillionths of a second long. Much of this work is motivated by the potential applications of these lasers in science.
However, we are also working with several industry partners to develop compact tunable nanosecond pulsed cerium lasers for ultraviolet fluorescence sensing. For example, supported by the Macquarie University Enterprise Partnership Scheme, we are working with Fluorescence Innovations Inc. USA to develop lasers to be incorporated as the laser sources in their fluorescence lifetime instrumentation product line. We are actively exploring other applications of these lasers in industry and the medical and life-sciences.
The cerium laser research program is part of a more extensive research program in ultraviolet lasers that began in the 1980s within the Centre for Lasers and Applications and continues today in the MQ Photonics Research Centre.
Highlights of this program include development of nonlinear optical frequency conversion technologies for generating ultraviolet laser output from visible lasers (technology was licenced to Oxford Lasers, Ltd, UK), and ultraviolet laser micromachining of polymers which is still offered as a service to industry and academics through the Macquarie University node of OptoFab.