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Speeding things up with laser precision

Imagine being able to do any task 69 times faster and the possibilities that would open for an individual or a company. Now imagine that speed being applied to manufacturing all manner of electronics and how it might lead to greater supply and lower costs for consumers.

Vitaly Gruzdev Portrait

Vitaly Gruzdev and research partner Hamid Farrokhi published “Magneto-absorption effects in magnetic-field assisted laser ablation of silicon by UV nanosecond pulses” in Applied Physics Letters in 2016 and recently provided an update of their ongoing research at the High Power Laser Ablation Conference in Santa Fe, N.M.

Vitaly Gruzdev, an assistant research professor in Mizzou’s Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Department, is part of a team closing in on bringing that exact improvement to fruition.

Gruzdev and research partner Hamid Farrokhi published “Magneto-absorption effects in magnetic-field assisted laser ablation of silicon by UV nanosecond pulses” in Applied Physics Letters in 2016 and recently provided an update of their ongoing research at the High Power Laser Ablation Conference in Santa Fe, N.M.

Using laser-surface coupling for silicon is a process used in the manufacturing of most electronics, including computers, smartphones and photovoltaic energy cells. The ability to expedite the process by a factor of up to 69 could have paradigm-shifting effects on electronics manufacturing, global energy and the cost of consumer electronics.

“Realize that you just need a small magnet installed in the manufacturing line to make laser technologies work 69 times faster. Realize that you wake up one morning, look out the window and see the world moving 69 times faster. That’s how it works,” Gruzdev explained.

Back in 2015, Farrokhi noticed that while using laser pulses to drill a hole in silicon, applying a magnetic field to the silicon allowed the laser to drill down 69 times faster than without the magnetic field. That’s when he reached out to Gruzdev.

“They provided the experimental data,” Gruzdev recalled. “It took me about a year to consider step-by-step those interactions and to identify what can possibly be responsible for that affect.”

Gruzdev and Farrokhi have proven that the magnetic field drastically speeds the process. The answer to the question of what comes next in this line of research is twofold: Why exactly does the magnetic field speed up the process, and how can this research be developed into a technology that allows for such a robust increase in the speed of manufacturing that utilizes this process?

The team currently is looking for funding to dig deeper into these pressing questions and hopefully develop the kind of groundbreaking technology that can take advantage of such a tremendous discovery.

“It looks amazing, but people cannot reproduce it in a simple, straightforward way,” Gruzdev said. “The next step is to make some fundamental research. … We need to patent it. We need to understand the dependence of that effect on laser parameters.”

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