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Prof. Develops Open-Space Laser Transmission Technology

Ranier Martini (Stevens Institute of Technology)

Ranier Martini (Stevens Institute of Technology)

An emerging technology for transmitting data with lasers through open space is being developed at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey. The technology that aims to exceed the communications capabilities of fiber-optic transmission without the fiber is being studied by physics and engineering professor Rainer Martini (pictured left), who has also started a company to commercialize his findings.

As fiber optic technology continues to advance, it faces challenges from both its physical properties and its use of infrastructure. Martini’s research aims to develop solutions that use lasers to transmit data through open space, overcoming the limitations imposed by fibers. This technology, called optical free space communications, has the potential to create faster Internet for the masses, as well as more sensitive cameras for military and security applications.

Martini and colleagues in the Ultrafast Laser Spectroscopy and Communication Laboratory study the mid-infared range spectrum, which university says works at the fringes of the laws of physics and material properties in developing faster systems of data transmission. Lasers must be optically modulated in order to transmit large amounts of data. While optical amplitude modulation (AM) of mid-infrared lasers has been achieved, dust and fog can cause interference in AM signals.

Martini’s group has developed a technique to optically modulate the frequency of laser beams as well as the amplitude. This frequency modulation (FM) results in a signal that is disrupted less by environmental factors. FM technology can remove dust and fog as barriers and enable communications in ranges of 100 gigahertz (GHz) and beyond, the equivalent of 100 gigabytes of data per second. Current technologies limit the frequencies accepted to 10 GHz.

The technology has applications in thermal imaging, and Martini’s work has led to the creation of a start up company, Predator Vision LLC, of which he is CEO. The company’s main product, the Predator Camera, provides unprocessed thermal imaging at 4 megapixel resolution.

The company says its technology, which has two provisional patents, penetrates fog and smoke to provide a thermal image while operating at room temperature. Predator Vision has targeted the technology for surveillance, maritime navigation, production quality control, medical imaging, automotive, and military applications.

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