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University’s lasers group solves industry issues

A new engineering group at the University of Lincoln is helping various industry areas benefit form laser technology.

The Laser and Photonics Engineering Group is one of the leading laser groups within higher eductaion in the UK, and works with industry to solves challenges.

The group is based in the School of Engineering, with a variety of lasers from ultra-violet to infra-red, plus excimer, CO2 and Nd:YAG lasers.

They also have a scanning electron microscope and white light interferometer, a variety of optical microscopes, and wettability analysis equipment.

Professor Jonathan Lawrence believes that lasers can solve a number of issues across various industries, and the likes of stem cell research, food packaging and industrial gas turbines are already benefiting from the technology.

He said: “The nature of today’s challenges brings the need for solutions through non-contact engineering.

“We are at the forefront of this with lasers and photonics. We have people on the team bringing together physics and chemistry, with expertise in laser optics, beam delivery and manipulation, ultra fast imaging of ablation and plume events and mathematical modelling and simulation.

“Everyone in the team is young and willing to look at problems in new ways, applying this new and exciting technology.

“We have already had success using lasers in ways people may not imagine are possible; for example, we have been working with colleagues in Life Sciences at the University on stem cell research, using lasers to produce special surfaces that go on to determine what stem cells develop into as they grow.

“We have also been applying them to ‘surface engineering’ which could have massive medical benefits by increasing the success rate of some procedures, such as hip replacements.”

Lasers in food packaging

The group is currently working on research into use of lasers within food packaging.

Professor Lawrence said: “The findings so far indicate that the food industry could benefit from the improved integrity of seals on packaging by using lasers, rather than the current heat sealing machines.

“This would save money and increase the safety of the food product for consumers, not to mention huge savings in energy usage.”

Gas turbines can make use of lasers too, being ignited with lasers instead of flame.

“Gas turbines might be located out in sub-zero temperatures or in the desert, making the ignition process inconsistent. We’re looking to eliminate that inconsistency, again, potentially saving the industry significant amounts of money and the same time, proving reliable service,” he added.

Members of the team include Dr Colin Dowding, who has expertise in laser ablation generated debris control, ultrafast imaging, laser activated selective bonding techniques and plasma initiated shockwave generation; Dr. David Waugh does research in laser engineering in fields such as surface treatment, wettability control and biomedical science; and Jonathan Griffiths’ main research area is laser ignition for gas turbines.

Source: University of Lincoln