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'Global first' laser developed at Strathclyde University

By Ken Macdonald BBC Scotland Science Correspondent

A team of Scottish scientists has developed a unique high-precision laser.

They say its size, portability and low cost make it a global first. The device is the size of a pack of playing cards and is one-tenth the cost of competing lasers.

It can be used in new applications such as precision clocks and sensors. These are examples of quantum technology, which applies the principles of quantum mechanics to everyday life.

Quantum mechanics deals with physics at the most fundamental level - tiny packets of energy and subatomic particles. The new laser was created by the Fraunhofer Centre for Applied Photonics at Strathclyde University.

The centre in Glasgow is the first of its kind in the UK and is part of a worldwide network.

The Scottish-made laser was created in collaboration with Optocap, an optoelectronics company based in Livingston. 'Rapidly developing market' They approached the Glasgow centre because they wanted to create a new line of products. The possible applications include the next generation of sat-nav systems and new types of telecoms.

The researchers say precision sensors could improve navigation in aircraft encountering bad visibility. It has taken a year of prototype development and testing to bring the new laser to market.

"It's very satisfying to see it now available in the rapidly developing quantum technology market," he said Dr Loyd McKnight from Fraunhofer's Centre for Applied Photonics. He added it was an example of Fraunhofer's mission to generate technologies so the economy and society can benefit.

The project was supported by the quantum technologies initiative of the innovation agency Innovate UK.

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