Montana State University

Extended continuous tuning technology for diode lasers available for licensing

December 26, 2006 -- By Tracy Ellig, MSU News Service

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Montana State University faculty and students have developed a device that could make it easier to detect a vast range of gases in the atmosphere from green-house causing carbon dioxide to bio-terrorism agents.

The device grew out of research seeking ways to monitor carbon dioxide sequestered underground. Carbon sequestration has emerged as a possible way to reduce CO2 emissions into the atmosphere, but one challenge has been finding a way to monitor for leaks.

Researchers can determine what a gas is by observing how laser light is absorbed. Every gas absorbs light at different wavelengths due to its molecular structure. By knowing the wavelength that absorption occurs, researchers can determine what the gas is. Additionally, the concentration of the gas can be determined by how much absorption occurs.

However, such analysis has suffered from gaps, known as "mode hops" where tuneable diode lasers are unable to access many wavelengths. Diode lasers are the most common laser used for this kind of work due to their relatively low power requirements, compactness and inexpensive cost.

As a result, some gases become very difficult to detect. The MSU device removes those gaps in the tuning spectrum allowing researchers to provide smooth continuous tuning with diode lasers.

The technology, an external cavity diode laser feedback system, is the latest available for licensing at MSU. Interested companies and entrepreneurs should contact Nick Zelver with the MSU Technology Transfer Office at (406) 994-7868, http://tto.montana.edu/technologies or by e-mail at nzelver@montana.edu. MSU requests that interest be expressed in writing by Jan. 31, 2007.

To date, MSU has licensed 111 technologies developed by faculty. Seventy of those licenses are with Montana companies.

Contact: Nick Zelver, MSU Technology Transfer Office, (406) 994-7868 or nzelver@montana.edu