May 13, 2009

New laser power meter is developed

U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology scientists say they've created a nanotube coating to enable measurements of high-power military lasers.

Researchers said the technology allows the military to quickly and easily calibrate high-power laser systems, such as those intended to defuse unexploded mines.

They said their achievement rests with a novel nanotube-coated power measurement device that can measure the light emitted by 10-kilowatt laser systems -- light a million times more intense than sunlight reaching the Earth.

NIST-built power meters currently being used are barely portable and operate slowly, the scientists said, noting their new power meter is much smaller and features a new design that enables it to make continuous power measurements.

A key innovation is the use of a sprayed-on coating of carbon nanotubes -- tiny cylinders made of carbon atoms -- which conduct heat hundreds of times better than conventional detector coating materials, NIST said.

The technology was reported in the Jan. 15 issue of the journal Optics Letters.