A $5.87 million contract has been awarded by the Air Force to optics researcher Martin Richardson and his University of Central Florida team to develop new concepts for high-power fiber lasers. The contract is the one of the largest made by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research to a single university for development of fiber lasers.

The five-year contract was awarded to promote collaborative research on fiber lasers and optical fiber development at UCF’s Townes Laser Institute with similar programs at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom and the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, Germany.

“We need to redesign the fiber from a simple communications fiber to one that is able to withstand the high power we want to generate,” said Richardson, who was in Washington when the award was announced. The UCF Pegasus Professor and founding director of the Townes Laser Institute was in Washington serving as a senior science advisor to the State Department under a Jefferson Science Fellowship from the National Academy of Sciences.

Fiber lasers, which are generated and contained inside the small core of fiber, are different from typical lasers that bounce light between mirrors. Richardson said the applications for the next-generation fiber lasers are in the fields of industry, defense and medicine.

The co-primary investigators on the program are professors Lawrence Shah, Rodrigo Amezcua-Correa and Axel Schulzgen from the UCF College of Optics & Photonics who will be working on projects here and with researchers at Southampton and Jena.

The same Air Force agency awarded a Defense University Research Instrumentation Program grant of $870,400 to the UCF team last year for purchase of a new lathe for advanced fiber fabrication.

“These investments go a long way toward establishing UCF as a leading academic institution for the development of high-power fiber lasers,” Richardson said.