Skip to main content
Semiconductor Lasers
Above: Four single frequency lasers at slightly different wavelengths mounted on a single bar prior to packaging.

Semiconductor Lasers

JPL and NASA have long benefited from semiconductor lasers developed and made by MDL. The lasers are used in instruments for planetary exploration, Earth observation and in support of human space flight. MDL continues to develop and deliver vastly improved lasers for the next generations of devices.

The impact of semiconductor lasers in space flight missions has increased steadily with applications in spectroscopy, laser altimeters, metrology, optical communications, and future life-detection fluorescence experiments. In the area of spectroscopy, momentum has built on the success of the Tunable Laser Spectrometer (TLS) instrument on the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) Curiosity rover. By selectively targeting absorption lines of key atmospheric gases and their less abundant isotopologues across the infrared spectrum, instruments based on TLS technology can provide valuable information about the composition and origins of bodies throughout the solar system. At the Microdevices Laboratory (MDL), significant progress has been made toward developing flight-ready semiconductor lasers operating with low input power across the infrared spectral region from 2 to 10 μm. These lasers are the enabling technology for the next generation of miniature, low-power laser spectrometers for planetary, earth atmosphere, and environmental monitoring on human space missions.

A major challenge for space applications is the reliability of semiconductor lasers. The MDL team’s efforts confirmed the reliability of infrared semiconductor lasers in relevant space environments. Lasers packaged in specially designed enclosures were subjected to thermal cycling, random vibration, shock, and tested for longevity. Based on this study, MDL is now capable of delivering lasers suited for future missions to explore the atmospheres of Venus, Saturn, and other solar system bodies.

Semiconductor Lasers

Products & Processes

Image from MDL Core Competency Project: 2.05 μm Seed Laser

2.05 μm Seed Laser

The sensitivity analysis for space-based CO2 LIDAR measurements has identified transitions in the 1.57- and 2.05-μm absorption bands that are suitable for making global measurements of CO2. Though both wavelengths...

Image from MDL Core Competency Project: 7-10µm QC Laser

7-10µm QC Laser

Following the success of the tunable laser spectrometer aboard the Mars Curiosity rover, laser-based spectroscopy instruments are expected to play a vital role in future planetary science missions. By selectively targeting absorption lines of...

Image from MDL Core Competency Project: 2.9 µ Laser

2.9 µ Laser

Semiconductor lasers emitting near 2.9 µm are a critical component of compact and reliable spectroscopic sensors for the measurement of hydroxyl radicals, OH, which are crucial components of the atmospheres of Earth and Mars...

Image from MDL Core Competency Project: Dual-Comb Spectroscopy

Dual-Comb Spectroscopy

Modern spectroscopic systems can accurately measure the real-time dynamics of mixed atomic and molecular species with weak spectral features, assuming the availability of a broadband source in the relevant wavelength band...

Back to top