Medical Design Briefs - February 2024 - 51

Design Briefs
OPO Lasers: Putting Optical Components
to the Test
Lasers can be used to deliver a narrow wavelength band, pulse duration,
and power level.
By Mark Little, Opotek, LLC
O
ptical parametric oscillator
(OPO)
lasers
test
optical
fibers and components to
characterize the spectral response
of optical components. OPO lasers
are common in sophisticated test
and measurement applications such
as mass spectrometry, photoacoustic
imaging, and spectroscopy. Now,
these tunable pulsed lasers are being
used to facilitate a range of tests
at different wavelengths to qualify
and quantify the performance of
optical components such as fiber
optic strands, filters, lenses, and
coated mirrors.
Lasers, in general, have long been
used in the test and measurement
of optical materials. By design, most
optical components reflect,
filter,
or transmit specific wavelengths, or
ranges of wavelength. Therefore, it
is critical to perform tests of component
materials and coatings to
ensure that products perform as expected.
The more precise these tests,
the higher the quality of the product
- a factor that manufacturers can turn
into a competitive advantage.
Because testing conditions should
replicate or simulate the actual operational
environment, lasers can be used
to deliver a narrow wavelength band,
pulse
duration
(if
applicable), and
power level to determine the spectral
response of optical components.
These tests deliver critical information
to optical component manufacturers
related to factors such as absorption,
scattering, and other optical properties.
They can also be used to assess how coatings
on optical surfaces will perform.
Damage testing has become even more
important to identify whether given optical
materials can be damaged at different
wavelengths. Coatings can also
become compromised at specific wavelengths,
leading to performance issues.
Medical Design Briefs, February 2024
OPO lasers facilitate a range of tests at different wavelengths to qualify and quantify the performance of optical components
such as fiber optic strands, filters, lenses, and coated mirrors. (Credit: Opotek)
Because there is such a range of tests,
there is an advantage if the laser can be
tuned to any required wavelength. Tuning
the laser allows more flexibility in the
types of tests that can be performed and
decreases complexity enabling manufacturers
to ensure that optical products perform
as expected.
Although continuous wavelength lasers
are an inexpensive solution for testing
optical materials, they don't provide
a broad range of high-resolution wavelengths,
and the peak power they can
generate is limited. Pulse-based lasers
produce high-intensity light bursts that
can be used to determine whether the
transmission properties of optical materials
or coatings are affected. Optical
component manufacturers may want to
test for this to ascertain whether highintensity
light will cause damage such
as nonlinear effects [unwanted wavelength
generation] or solarization or
photobleaching across a spectrum of
www.medicaldesignbriefs.com
wavelengths, including down to deep
ultraviolet (UV). Continuous wave lasers
are not powerful enough for this level of
damage testing.
When single wavelength pulse-based
lasers are required, Nd:YAG lasers are an
ideal option because they are relatively
inexpensive and simple to use. A 1064nm
laser can also be modified using additional
hardware to operate at its other
harmonic frequencies: 213, 266, 355,
and 532 nm. While this provides five defined
wavelengths for testing, each modification
adds to the cost. There are gaps
between the wavelengths, and the jump
from 1064 to 532 nm is significant. Each
of those harmonics increases the cost.
Optical component manufacturers will
want to know how their products perform
at the wavelengths between those
harmonics.
OPO lasers provide a more versatile,
high-resolution option. These lasers can
be tuned to specific wavelengths across
51
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Medical Design Briefs - February 2024

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