Chinese military could soon disable sensors on enemy missiles using suitcase-sized device after ‘groundbreaking’ study on ultrafast lasers

The Chinese destroyer Wuhan leads a fleet of naval ships ahead of a joint exercise with Russia in the Sea of Japan. At present, high-frequency lasers used to tackle missiles are the size of huge containers. Photo: AP


A breakthrough in laser technology may give the Chinese military the ability to blind the sensors on enemy missiles or even satellites using a portable device the size of a suitcase, rather than the large container-sized version typically found on warships.

A research team led by Professor Li Zhiyuan with the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Physics reported that they had reduced the sophisticated mechanism that generates a high-frequency laser down to a single piece of crystal.

This means the huge ultrafast laser generator that is used to render heat-seeking missiles useless, and which can be found on warships today, could be shrunk to the size of hand baggage and mounted on aircraft, tanks or even soldiers.

“This is a groundbreaking achievement,” said Liu Qiang, a professor of laser optics at Beijing’s Tsinghua University.

Nobody has generated a laser at such a high frequency on a single piece of crystal before,” added Liu, who was not involved in the research.

“Their technology will significantly simplify the process of ultrafast laser production and reduce the size of relevant devices.”

Part of the team’s research was detailed in the latest issue of the journal Physical Review Letters, which is run by the American Physical Society.

While researchers developed various ways of making high frequency laser beams, such as using purified gas or multiple crystals, they all required the device to be set up in a large room with delicate components that are vulnerable to external disturbances such as shaking.

Li’s team claim to have solved this problem. They developed a special crystal with lithium and niobium that can convert a normal laser beam into high frequency waves as short as 350 nanometres, or three times faster than the ultrafast system in use today. 

“If they can achieve the efficiency they claim, I think their technology can be quickly deployed in field applications,” Liu said.

Full article: Chinese military could soon disable sensors on enemy missiles using suitcase-sized device after ‘groundbreaking’ study on ultrafast lasers (South China Morning Post)

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