New fibre-optic lasers that can deliver high-power beams efficiently over long distances are to be developed by a new Royal Academy of Engineering Research Chair at the University of Southampton, with support from SPI Lasers.

Professor Michalis Zervas, of the University’s Optoelectronic Research Centre, will build on his years of research in high-power fibre lasers to develop the next generation of laser technology, which will exploit novel features of fibre lasers to be used in manufacturing.

The SPI Lasers / Royal Academy of Engineering Chair in Advanced Fibre Laser Technologies for Future Manufacturing will develop new passive and active fibre technologies, with precisely engineered materials to make fibre-optic lasers 'smarter', more stable and efficient. This includes using novel composite materials for both the inner core and the outer cladding of the fibres, as well as doping – deliberately introducing impurities into the fibres to enhance their performance.

The new technologies will enable the scaling up of powerful fibre lasers with added functionality but a smaller footprint. This allows precise control over the shape of the laser beam, its polarisation, and wavelength – features that can be exploited in new laser manufacturing tools for precise welding, cutting and additive manufacturing.

The new generation of fibres will also enable laser light to be delivered over long distances without impairments, enabling smart deployment in industrial settings where flexible, reconfigurable and fully automated factories are increasingly using robotics to remotely deliver laser power.

Professor Zervas said: “I am delighted to have been awarded this prestigious Research Chair and the opportunity that comes with it to work closely with the Royal Academy and SPI Lasers to develop the next generation of industrial laser manufacturing tools.

“Looking further into the future, the next stage of our research will aim to provide stable 10s to 100kW beams over long distances, and take fibre lasers to where other types of laser cannot go. In addition to intelligent manufacturing, these high-power lasers could also have important national security applications.”

Professor Ric Parker CBE FREng, Chair of the Academy’s Research Committee, said: “Professor Zervas brings together the expertise in materials, optics and electronics that is necessary to engineer the next generation of powerful, smart lasers. The Royal Academy of Engineering is delighted to support him as a new Research Chair, and we look forward to seeing how advances in this technology will be deployed in industry of the near future.”

Notes for editors

  1. Royal Academy of Engineering. As the UK’s national academy for engineering, we bring together the most successful and talented engineers for a shared purpose: to advance and promote excellence in engineering. We provide analysis and policy support to promote the UK’s role as a great place to do business. We take a lead on engineering education and we invest in the UK’s world-class research base to underpin innovation. We work to improve public awareness and understanding of engineering. We are a national academy with a global outlook.

    We have four strategic challenges:
    - Make the UK the leading nation for engineering innovation
    - Address the engineering skills crisis
    - Position engineering at the heart of society
    - Lead the profession
  2. SPI Lasers is a leading designer and manufacturer of premium Fibre Lasers for the manufacturing industry.  SPI Lasers are capable of multiple applications, from welding, cutting and marking, through to drilling, micro-machining and additive manufacturing.   Manufactured in the UK they are sold globally via a network of preferred suppliers as well as offices in the USA, China and Korea.  The company is as committed to achieving the very best levels of product quality and customer service as it was when it began back in 1999.  For more information on SPI Lasers visit www.spilasers.com or email sales@spilasers.com.
  3. Through world-leading research and enterprise activities, the University of Southampton connects with businesses to create real-world solutions to global issues. Through its educational offering, it works with partners around the world to offer relevant, flexible education, which trains students for jobs not even thought of. This connectivity is what sets Southampton apart from the rest; we make connections and change the world. http://www.southampton.ac.uk/

For more information please contact:

Aaron Boardley at the Royal Academy of Engineering
T: 020 7766 0655
E:  Aaron Boardley