February 25, 2024

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Australia Redefining Defence Tech

Optical scientists have devised a novel method to significantly enhance the potency of fibre lasers while preserving their beam quality, positioning them as a pivotal defence technology against low-cost drones and other applications such as remote sensing.

The collaborative effort involved researchers from the University of South Australia (UniSA), the University of Adelaide (UoA), and Yale University, and their achievement is documented in the prestigious scientific journal Nature Communications.

Dr Linh Nguyen, a co-first author of the research and a researcher at UniSA’s Future Industries Institute, elucidates that the innovative approach demonstrated in the study can amplify the power in fibre lasers by three-to-nine times using multimode optical fibre, all the while maintaining beam quality crucial for focusing on distant targets. This technological breakthrough holds immense potential for various applications, with particular emphasis on its role in the defence industry, where high-power fibre lasers play a vital role.

Dr Nguyen underscores the significance of high-power fibre lasers in manufacturing and defence, particularly in the contemporary landscape marked by the widespread use of low-cost unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones, in modern battle scenarios. He notes that a swarm of inexpensive drones can swiftly deplete missile resources, leaving military assets and vehicles with diminished firing power for missions critical to combat.

In this context, high-power fibre lasers emerge as a strategic solution due to their low cost per shot and the rapidity of light action. This strategic advantage, termed as asymmetric advantage, leverages a cost-effective approach to overpower more expensive, high-tech systems through sheer numerical superiority.

The researcher emphasises the unique role of high-power fibre lasers in providing a viable long-term defence solution, aligning with the concept of asymmetric advantage. This capability not only safeguards against the challenges posed by cheap drones but also aligns with the objectives outlined in the Defence Strategic Review and AUKUS Pillar 2 objectives, offering a deterrent effect that is integral to defence strategies.

Dr Ori Henderson-Sapir, a project investigator at UoA’s Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing, places this achievement in the broader context of Australia’s historical prowess in developing innovative fibre optics technologies. He sees this research as propelling Australia into a world-leading position for the next generation of high-power fibre lasers, with applications extending beyond defence to contribute to new scientific discoveries.

The researchers, having successfully demonstrated their technology in fibre lasers, are poised to share their findings at Photonics West, a premier international conference on photonics technology scheduled for early 2024. This platform will offer a global stage for presenting their advancements, fostering collaboration, and advancing the integration of high-power fibre lasers into diverse fields.

The collaborative efforts of researchers from UniSA, UoA, and Yale University have yielded a transformative breakthrough in the realm of optical science. Their innovative approach to increasing the power of fibre lasers, coupled with maintaining beam quality, opens new frontiers for applications ranging from defence against drones to scientific exploration. The implications of this research extend beyond national boundaries, positioning Australia as a frontrunner in the development of cutting-edge fibre optic technologies with global significance.

Australian researchers’ breakthrough in fibre laser technology, achieving three-to-nine times power increase without compromising beam quality, holds significant implications for national defence. With a focus on countering low-cost drones, this innovation aligns with the Defense Strategic Review and AUKUS Pillar 2 objectives. The development, a collaboration between the University of South Australia, the University of Adelaide, and Yale University, positions Australia as a global leader in cutting-edge defence technology.

The government’s emphasis on technological advancements, economic implications, and international collaboration underscores the broader impact of this breakthrough on national security and strategic innovation initiatives.


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