From the very beginning the application laboratories will be organized as user facilities. In addition to the partner institutes of the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, the research cluster CAPS is already cooperating with several companies and internationally renowned research institutions. Together they will work on projects in the future fields of production, imaging and materials as well as in basic research.
In the application laboratories, high-power beam sources will be set up and put into operation from 2019 onwards. The parameters of the beam sources will be tailored to meet the individual needs of the users.
System technology and components
In addition to developing various laser sources (Fraunhofer ILT and IOF), the entire project has placed great emphasis on setting up suitable system technology. Alongside purely optical high-performance components, this includes, for example, the development of new scanner systems. Fraunhofer ISIT will transfer the advantages of the silicon-based MEMS scanner technology to high laser power; Fraunhofer IWS will combine these with classic high-performance scanner technology. In a further step, Fraunhofer IWS will use its Direct Laser Interference Patterning technology (DLIP) with ultrashort pulses for the first time.
Applications of ultrafast lasers in production make processes possible that are superior to classical processes in terms of precision, selectivity, flexibility and/or they can reduce the number of process steps. But they also have to be economical. A correspondingly high throughput requires not only ultrafast lasers with a high average power, sometimes well in excess of 1 kW, but also system technology for high-rate structuring so that this power can be implemented without causing thermal damage.
There are already a number of project ideas for the application of the multi-kW ultrafast lasers. This includes the texturing of silicon wafers for the solar industry (Fraunhofer ISE and IWS). The corresponding process requires power in the multi-kW range to establish further laser-based processes and further cost reductions in production of solar cells. Also for the production of lithium batteries, ultrafast lasers could increase their efficiency (Fraunhofer IKTS, IWS and ILT). There are also great opportunities with the machining of highly wear-resistant ultra-hard ceramics materials (Fraunhofer IKTS, IWS and ILT).
New applications in imaging and materials research use secondary radiation that can be generated with ultrafast lasers. For this reason, the intensive laser pulses can be used e.g. to generate coherent, very short-wave radiation down to the spectral range of soft X-rays.
A key challenge faced by biomedical applications and material analytics is imaging technologies for detecting extremely small objects, such as single cells or molecules. A three-dimensional volume image can be reconstructed with a correspondingly large number of radiographic images.
Of particular interest is tomography based on coherent diffraction imaging (CDI) data at a wavelength of 13.5 nm. A variable EUV radiation wavelength makes additional spectral analysis possible and thus the vision of ”4D-nanoCT”, a process for four-dimensional X-ray imaging.
Achieving short exposure times with coherent EUV light sources requires efficient ultrashort pulse lasers with more than 10 kW average power and pulse durations below 50 fs as a driver. Such lasers provide unique perspectives; for example, thanks to the extremely short wavelength, extremely high resolutions can be achieved (Fraunhofer IZI-BB).
Even shorter wavelengths for the exploration of materials are achieved with so-called Compton sources. These are based on an interaction of pulsed laser beams with conventionally generated electron beams (Fraunhofer FEP and IIS).
The various partners will contribute their expertise in biology and medicine (Fraunhofer IIS), semiconductor technologies (Fraunhofer IMWS) or data analysis and quality control (Fraunhofer ITWM).
USP lasers with average powers in the range of 10 to 20 kW open up completely new possibilities in the production of artificial materials and the investigation of new material conditions (non-equilibrium processes). Possibilities also arise here for quantum technologies, where N-type vacancies in diamonds can be activated for new quantum sensors (Fraunhofer IAF). Completely new options arise for the investigation of materials with laser-induced and therefore ultrafast electron beam sources (Fraunhofer FEP).