Air Force to establish research center of excellence in guided-wave infrared sources

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AFB, Ohio, 16 Nov. 2012. U.S. Air Force researchers plan to establish a center of excellence for guided-wave infrared sources to conduct and catalog research in infrared waveguides and fibers for low-loss optical transmission, lasers, nonlinear conversion devices, and beam-control devices.

The Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, has released a solicitation (FOA-RQKS-2013-02) for the Center of Excellence (COE) in Guided-Wave Infrared Sources, which asks companies to bid on a job of establishing and running the center.

Wavelength regimes of interest are those consistent with atmospheric transmission windows as well as organic and inorganic absorption in the 2-to-12 micron region.

Companies bidding should have significant experience in teaching students in technical areas of interest. Those chosen also will make research results available through activities such as seminars, publications, and presentations at conferences.

Ultimately Air Force researchers want to devise a layered sensing network for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and countermeasure technology to enable freedom of air and space operations for U.S. forces, allow no sanctuary for enemies, and provide homeland security.

Researchers say they expect research at the center to result in robust, reliable, efficient, and compact devices that are better suited to survive in military environments than free-space beam propagation technology.

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The use of transverse beam confinement rather than propagation through the air eliminates misalignment issues due to heat and vibration, researchers say. Important optical components like low-loss optical fibers, optical isolators, beam modulators, and beam-steering elements also will require technology advances before they can be deployed.

The center also will focus on developing laser technology for infrared guided-wave generation, propagation, and modulation. Researchers particularly are interested in passive optical fibers with II-VI material cores that guide light with wavelengths longer than two microns.

These kinds of fibers will route laser power from a central source to several apertures around an aircraft, similar to electric cables. These same fibers can be doped with transition-metals to create broadly tunable fiber lasers not subject to the limitations of current solid-state transition-metal lasers.

Semiconductor lasers provide an additional promising development path for high-power, waveform-versatile mid-IR lasers, researchers say, as are pulsed and continuous-wave sources; IR fiber and ceramic lasers; IR semiconductor lasers; IR nonlinear frequency conversion devices and waveguides; techniques for wavelength tuning, thermal management, beam coupling, and transport; and switches, isolators, and modulators.

Companies interested should respond no later than 7 Dec. 2012. For technical questions contact the Air Force's William Mitchell by phone at 937-528-8660, or by e-mail at For contracting questions contact Jodi Alvarez by e-mail at

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