Dundee and M-Squared set sights on smaller lasers

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A TEAM of Scottish scientists and engineers has secured a share of £1.2 million in European Commission (EC) funding to make smaller and cheaper lasers.

Glasgow-based technology outfit M-Squared Lasers and researchers at Dundee University’s photonics and nanoscience group will look at how findings from the university’s studies can make lasers more efficient.

They will be working alongside companies from Bulgaria, Spain and Switzerland, along with scientists from the Institute of Mineralogy & Crystallography in Bulgaria and Stuttgart University in Germany.

Funding for the two-year “HiCore” project is coming from the EC’s seventh framework programme (FP7).

The research is based on “conical refraction”, in which light is shone into a crystal that then produces a “doughnut”-shaped beam with a hollow centre.

The technical is expected to reduce the amount of heat lasers produce, allowing them to be made smaller and simpler.

Graeme Malcolm, chief executive of M-Squared Lasers, said: “The HiCore project is envisaged to develop leading new high-power laser technology, which will enable M-Squared to offer products with performance beyond anything available.

“M-Squared is delighted to be working with the leading research groups in Dundee, Sofia and Stuttgart, which we have combined to form an extremely powerful research team.”

Edik Rafailov, leader of the photonics and nanoscience group at Dundee University, added: “Ongoing close relationships with highly-innovative companies such as M-Squared enable the university to translate the research results obtained in the lab into real world products, and this project is a great example of the synergies that arise from industrial collaboration.

“The technology being developed could change the rules in the laser sector of the photonics industry.”

News of the research grant comes just months after M-Squared secured a £3.85m investment from the Business Growth Fund to ramp up its research and development programme.

The company has already developed systems to remotely detect explosives, chemicals or pollution such as gas leaks.

Chief executive Graeme Malcolm and managing director Gareth Maker founded M-Squared in 2005. Their previous firm, Microlase, had been launched in 1992 as a spin out from Strathclyde University and was sold to Nasdaq-listed Coherent in 2000.

Dundee University and M-Squared are the latest in a string of Scottish companies and research bodies to secure funding from the EC’s FP7 scheme.

Earlier this month, Scotland on Sunday revealed that Edinburgh-based life sciences firm Big DNA has secured a share in a £4.8m grant to help develop vaccines for fish.