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The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is home to the world’s largest laser system, the National Ignition Facility (NIF). The NIF with its 192 beam lines and over 40,000 optics has been an engine of innovation for lasers and optics technologies for the last couple of decades. The Lasers and Optics intellectual property portfolio is the culmination of the many groundbreaking developments in high energy, high peak power and ultrashort pulse laser system design and operation, including technologies related to Laser Diodes, Fiber & Disk Lasers, Compact Telescopes, High Damage Threshold Gratings, High Power Optical Components and their Fabrication and Coating Techniques. The thrust of the research and development at the NIF has been to realize novel approaches for laser systems, optical components and their applications that are more compact and higher efficiency while reliably delivering ever higher energy and peak power capabilities required in the furtherance of LLNL’s missions in Stockpile Stewardship and High Energy Density Science.

Portfolio News and Multimedia

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Livermore researchers collect three awards among the top 100 industrial inventions

R&D World Magazine recently announced their 2022 award winners. LLNL researchers received three awards, which include Tailored Glass by Direct Ink Writing, novel compression gratings that enable a new class of high-energy laser systems and a 3D printing feedstock known as Energy Inks that can print a functioning battery.

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NASA funds LLNL to demonstrate 'replicator' 3D printer to produce cartilage in space

NASA's funding will enable LLNL and Kentucky-based space life sciences company, Space Tango to mature prototypes of the “replicator” technology — a ultrafast 3D printer co-developed by LLNL and the University of California, Berkeley — for bioprinting in microgravity on the International Space Station.

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New laser-based volumetric additive manufacturing method can 3D print glass in seconds

Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley have demonstrated the ability to 3D-print microscopic objects in silica glass, part of an effort to produce delicate, layer-less optics that can be built in seconds

Lasers and Optics Technologies

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HAPLS

This LLNL invention is an optical amplifier, wherein the gain element is in the form of a frustum and a spherically diverging laser beam is introduced into the gain medium via the small face of the frustum. In one embodiment, the pump beam is generated by one or more chromium-lasers that are counter-propagating, having been introduced through the large face of the frustum. The gain medium may…

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Adobe stock vibration wave

This invention circumvents the GMAPD deadtime limitation by using an array of GMAPDs in a non-imaging configuration instead of a single element. By using an array, with sufficient number of elements, guarantees there is always at least one element available to detect an incoming photon even if others are in the deadtime zone.

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Electronic Wave

This invention works by imaging an ultrafast pulse diffracted from a large grating onto a spatial light modulator (SLM) thereby directly transcribing an arbitrary record on a pulse front tilted (PFT) ultrafast pulse. The grating generates PFT of the input pulse, and the SLM provides temporal control of the pulse through the space-to-time mapping of the tilted pulse. Coupling this patterned…

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Electronic Wave

This invention exploits the non-linearities of optical Mach-Zehnder (MZ) electrooptic modulators to enhance small signal dynamic range at higher bandwidths. A linear photodiode (PD) converts the amplified optical signal output from the MZ back to an electrical signal completing an Electrical-Optical-Electrical (EOE) conversion cycle. The dynamic range can be further enhanced by daisy chaining…

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Schematic of a plasma-grating-based laser system using a double-CPA architecture

This invention draws on the higher damage tolerance of plasma to manipulate high-intensity light. Plasma is a difficult medium to control and sets stringent limits on optical performance. A compact high-power laser system can be realized using plasma transmission gratings for chirped pulse compression based on currently achievable plasma properties and minimal plasma volume. A double…

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Schematic of ionization grating

This invention proposes a volumetric transmission grating based on ionization created in a neutral gas by crossing and interfering two short-pulse pump lasers so that their intensity maxima rise above the medium’s ionization threshold. This will create a modulated index of refraction that can diffract a subsequent probe beam like a transmission grating. Crucially for the application of…

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Laser peening induces deep compressive stress, which significantly extends the service lifetime over any conventional treatment

This invention proposes using a pulse laser configured to generate laser pulses and a controller for controlling operation of the pulse laser. The controller is further configured to control the pulse laser to cause the pulse laser to generate at least one of the laser pulses with a spatiotemporally varying laser fluence over a duration of at least one of the laser pulses. The spatiotemporally…

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MonoTel Compact Monolithic Space Telescope

Rapid monolith development at scale is achieved through use of a functionally equivalent optic simulant made from a low-cost material to substitute the functional optic. Monolith optical performance is affected not only by thermal expansion but also by temperature inhomogeneity due to the temperature dependence of refractive index.

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MonoTel Compact Monolithic Space Telescope

Aeroptics are a proposed new class of monolithic optical system in aerogel fabricated by molding around a master mandrel. This approach combines the intrinsic stability of proven monolithic telescopes, with the ultralow density of silica aerogels. In Aeroptics, the monolith is hollow with an aerogel substrate providing a supporting structure. Theoretically, Aeroptics could enable 1-m aperture…

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Adobe Stock image laser beam

This invention proposes to engineer the current density along the length of a laser diode to overcome the penalty associated with non-uniformity resulting from asymmetry in the gain, photon or carrier density despite having uniform contact. Optimizing the current density profile enables diode lasers to operate with greater power conversion efficiency or operate with equivalent power conversion…

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Schematic showing mismatched coefficient of thermal expansion (CTE) coating

This invention proposes to engineer the temperature dependence of the emission wavelength of LEDs and laser diodes. The approach is to use a strain-inducing coating to counteract the intrinsic temperature coefficient of the emission wavelength of the LED or laser diode device thereby rendering it athermal. This invention avoids additional complexity, size, weight and power dissipation of…

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Photoconductive Semiconductor Laser Diodes and LEDs

This invention proposes a method to overcome the key limitation of electrically pumped lasers based on AlN, AlGaN, or AlInGaN, namely the lack of suitable shallow donor and acceptor dopants. As the band gap of these materials increases (and the emission wavelength decreases), both electrons and holes require greater thermal energies in order to ionize.

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Adobe Stock image laser beam

Laser diode lensing effect can be substantially reduced by creating a pattern interface such that the substrate is only attached at the diode mesa. This is achieved by either creating a pattern solder joint and/or pattern substrate.

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large potassium dihydrogen phosphate KDP crystal

This invention takes advantage of the high water-solubility of key NIF KDP crystal optics and uses water as an etchant to remove surface defects and improve the laser induced damage threshold. Since pure water etches KDP too fast, this invention is to disperse water as nanosized droplets in a water-in-oil micro-emulsion. While in a stable micro-emulsion form, the surfactant additives prevent…

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LLNL’s CO2 laser-based Optics Mitigation Facility adapted for controlled laser melting of glass optics.

This invention proposes to use laser induced melting/softening to locally reshape the form of a glass optic. The local glass densification that results induces predictable stresses that through plate deformation mechanics yield a deterministic methodology for arbitrarily reshaping an optic surface figure and wavefront without the need to remove material.

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MonoTel Compact Monolithic Space Telescope

This invention achieves both a wider field of view and faster f-number within a monolithic substrate by incorporating an aspheric convex refractive first surface and a planar aspheric field corrector surface on the final refractive surface. These two refractive surfaces work in conjunction with a concave aspheric primary and convex aspheric secondary mirror (e.g. Cassegrain type) to improve…

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Thin disc of a transparent ceramic

This invention is about a Material Jetting technique used to form a ceramic green body that is subsequently processed into a transparent ceramic optic with unique tunable spatial control of the composition as a function of position only achievable via additive manufacturing methods. This method uses ceramic particles loaded into a liquid slurry with required viscosity and surface tension to be…

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Scanning electron micrograph of scalable, grating-like nanoscale metal mask (line period ~35 nm)

This invention consists of a method of forming nanoscale metal lines to produce a grating-like mask with wide area coverage over the surface of a durable optical material such as fused silica. Subsequent etching processes transfer the metal mask to the underlying substrate forming a birefringent metasurface. This method enables the production of ultrathin waveplates for high power laser…

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Laser Beam Shaping to Improve 3D Printing. Credit: Veronica Chen/LLNL

This LLNL invention proposes a novel approach to spectral interferometry, the preferred technique for characterizing nanosecond long records of laser pulse shapes with femtosecond resolution. Linear techniques are much more sensitive than the many nonlinear techniques of the prior art and can be used for very weak pulses. However, they depend on being able to interfere the signal with a well…

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optical element

LLNL has designed and demonstrated a novel transmission Spectral Beam Combining grating optic assembly with megawatt power handling capabilities. The design consists of a monolithic structure with an input transform optic and an output transmission grating. The design features LLNL’s proven compact, lightweight Spectral Channels Splicer architecture to combine adjacent spectral channels of…

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Scanning electron micrograph of bulk metamaterial structures fabricated at LLNL

Heat sensitive materials such as piezoelectric and MEMS devices and assemblies, magnetic sensors, nonlinear optical crystals, laser glass or solid-state laser materials, etc. cannot be exposed to excess temperatures which in the context of this invention, means materials that cannot be exposed to temperatures greater than 50°C (122°F). LLNL’s invention describes a low-temperature method of…

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HAPLS

LLNL researchers have developed a high average power Faraday rotator that is gas-cooled and uniquely designed to dissipate heat uniformly so that it does not build up in the optical component and affect its performance.  The Faraday rotator material is sliced into smaller disks like a loaf of bread so that high speed helium gas can flow between the slices.  With this highly efficient cooling…

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National Ignition Facility (NIF)

This novel detector for characterizing IFE implosions is an alternative to the current RTNADs to measure neutron fluxes > 3x1011 neutrons/cm2 at high shot rates. The detector consists of a stack of small square metal wafers separated by thin insulating spacers. Every other wafer is held at high voltage while the remaining wafers are grounded. The stack acts as an…

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The High-Repetition-Rate Advanced Petawatt Laser System (HAPLS), the world’s most advanced and highest average power diode-pumped petawatt laser system, at LLNL.

This invention discloses a method to minimize transient variations in the wavelength- and/or pointing-behavior of an optic, without requiring a reduction in its thermal resistance, optical absorption, or operating irradiance. The invention employs a combination of a time-varying heat source and time-varying thermal resistance and/or heat sink temperature to achieve temperature stability of the…

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Linearly polarized light entering a half-wave plate can be resolved into two waves, parallel and perpendicular to the optic axis of the waveplate ("Waveplate" by Bob Mellish is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0).

This novel method of producing waveplates from isotropic optical materials (e.g. fused silica) consists of forming a void-dash metasurface using the following process steps:

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NIF Target Chamber

This invention concerns a new type of optic: a transient gas or plasma volume grating produced indirectly by small secondary lasers or directly by nonlinear processes using the primary beams themselves. When used in conjunction with advantageously placed shielding it offers a means of protecting the final optical components of a high-repetition-rate IFE facility. These transmission optics are…

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optical element

This invention utilizes transmission gratings to combine lasers of the same wavelength into a single collinear output. The transmission grating can be an all-bulk structure fabricated in fused silica, silicon, diamond, silicon nitride, etc. The transmission grating can also have dielectric coatings to increase diffraction efficiency and optical bandwidth. This invention makes possible…

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Radio Frequency Photonics Optimizes Signal Processing

LLNL researchers in the NIF Directorate DoD Technologies RF Photonics Group explored phase modulation solutions to this signal processing challenge. Optical frequency combs offer phase noise characteristics that are orders of magnitude lower than available from commercial microwave references. The Photonics Group researchers recognized that by converting the intensity information into phase,…

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creation of ultra-high energy density matter by an intense laser pulse
Livermore Lab researchers have developed two new methods for improving the efficiency of laser drilling. The first method is based on multi-pulse laser technology. Two synchronized free-running laser pulses from a tandem-head Nd:YAG laser and a gated CW laser are capable of drilling through 1/8-in-thick stainless-steel targets at a standoff distance of 1 m without gas-assist. The combination of a…
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monolithic_telescope

Monolithic Telescopes are a novel implementation of a solid catadioptric design form, instantiated in a monolithic block of fused silica.

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Optics

The LLNL method for optimizing as built optical designs uses insights from perturbed optical system theory and reformulates perturbation of optical performance in terms of double Zernikes, which can be calculated analytically rather than by tracing thousands of rays. A new theory of compensation is enabled by the use of double Zernikes which allows the performance degradation of a perturbed…

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gradient_composition_glass

LLNL researchers have developed a custom resin formulation which uses a dispersing solvent and only a multifunctional monomer as the binding agent. The dispersing solvent system typically used has multiple components meant to achieve excellent dispersal of silica in order to create a flowable resin (rather than a paste). The dispersing agent has low vapor pressure, which allows the 3D printed…

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nuclear reactor

The new LLNL technique works by transiently removing and trapping concrete or rock surface material, so that contaminants are confined in a manner that is easy to isolate and remove. Our studies suggest that 10 m2 of surface could be processed per hour. The technique easily scales to more surface/hr.

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Serrated Light Illumination for Deflection-Encoded Recording  (SLIDER)

The SLIDER deflector includes a waveguide, a serrated mask positioned above the waveguide cladding, and a synchronized pump beam. The pump beam illuminates the serrated mask with a short pulse and transfers its pattern to the guiding layer where it imprints a sequence of prisms. The prisms are activated via nonlinear optical effects in the semiconductor and persist for the duration of the…

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Laser Peening

LLNL’s system consists of one or more flashlamp-pumped Nd:glass zig-zag amplifiers, a very low threshold stimulated-Brillouin-scattering (SBS) phase conjugator system, and a free-running single frequency Nd:YLF master oscillator.

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Space-based Telescopes for Actionable Refinement of Ephemeris (STARE)

LLNL is developing the Space-based Telescopes for Actionable Refinement of Ephemeris (STARE). STARE is a constellation of low cost nano-satellites (less than 5Kg) in low-earth orbit dedicated to the observation of space debris in conjunction with a ground-based infrastructure for maintenance, coordination and data processing. Each nano-satellite in the constellation is capable of recording an…

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 laser-Compton test station

The selected industrial partner and LLNL will enter into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) to develop the next generation of laser technologies for MEGa-ray systems and to create a next generation of MEGa-ray sources that could be marketed to both the industrial and academic communities.

The MEGa-ray system developed will be based on LLNL's proprietary, multi-…

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Hand polishing optics

LLNL's Slurry Stabilization Method provides a chemical means of stabilizing a polishing compound in suspension at working concentrations without reducing the rate of material removal. The treated product remains stable for many months in storage.