The use and deployment of laser-based optical equipment for environmental sensing, detection and metrological systems is continuously increasing. For example, optical systems for railway network and highway safety monitoring, strain and temperature measurements, fire detection or for airport and border security are commercially available and are gathering a day-by-bay growing interests.
In most cases, the performances offered by optical detection devices surpass the ones of their electronics or mechanical counterparts by several orders of magnitude. It is therefore expected that in 2014 optical technologies will take a high share of the predicted $13 billion worth market of environmental sensing and monitoring technologies (BCC).
However, many optical sensing systems are still waiting for more performing and more compact optical sources and detectors. Indeed one of the key elements in such system is the light source, which in most cases consists of a laser. Typically, to ensure a high level of reliability and performances of the overall optical system, the laser source must meet some stringent specifications. In particular, properties such as, single-mode (transversal), stable power operation, eye safe wavelength, high beam quality (pointing and shape), and low noise, are highly desirable. The possibility to achieve power to the watt level can also be beneficial if not necessary in many cases such as light detection and ranging applications (LIDAR), active laser imaging or sensor arrays for instance. For time of flight measurement schemes, the ability of the laser to operate in the ns pulsed regime is another important requirement. Last but not least, compactness, low weight and mechanical robustness are also critical for onboard integration in transport vehicles.
To date, no laser source combining the characteristics listed above and packaged in a compact format is commercially available. Through the SIMPLE proposal, we wish to address this issue by developing a compact high power single mode pulsed laser whose specifications will make it appear as the reference product in its field. We also intend to implement and test this laser module inside a railway-monitoring Lidar-system. Thanks to its compactness and stability, the laser source proposed can be installed on aircrafts, satellites, ships or mobile monitoring stations. It is also expected that by making this novel laser available, the project SIMPLE will contribute in extending the range of applications of optical technologies which, in turn, will open new markets.
The project SIMPLE will bring together the complementary expertise and know-how of two SMEs (TEEM Photonics, Q-Tech) and two research centres (ISMB and G-INP). Through the Simple project ISMB and G-INP will bring their expertise to support the “in-house” R&D of TEEM Photonics and Q-Tech. This collaboration will allow fastening the market launch of a novel laser source that will represent a breakthrough not only at European but also at world-wide level.
The targeted product is a high-power compact pulsed laser, operating at the eye-safe wavelength of 1.54 µm. This product will be an excellent complement to the portfolio of Teem Photonics, of which it is intended to become a key element. The unique position of this device on the market will help the strategic development and growth of Teem Photonics. It could represent up to 40% of Teem’s turnover in the coming years.
The technological outcomes of the project will also benefit to the commercial activities of Q-Tech as prime integrator of the SIMPLE laser. By the end of the project Q-tech will dispose of a laser source specifically designed to boost the performances of its monitoring systems for railway and motorway safety. This application represents a market of 2MEuro per year for Q-Tech and it is expected to grow by 70% in the next few years.
Although the target specifications are challenging, literature and technical considerations confirm that they are achievable. The plan for product development has been established in a way that the individual expertise of each member can be deployed to their maximum through collaborative works. We believe that this technological and collaborative strategy will be key in the success of the project. The participation of Q-Tech to the project SIMPLE demonstrates that this proposal answers to a lack of adequate product on the market. It also represents the opportunity to include end-user at the heart of product development.

Applied Photonics