Improvements bring chemical oxygen-iodine laser closer to market

August 02, 1999

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. -- By enhancing the performance and lowering the operating costs of the chemical oxygen-iodine laser (COIL), researchers at the University of Illinois have helped to bring the device close to commercial application.

"Unlike most lasers, COIL can be scaled to very high power levels, in excess of 40 kilowatts," said David Carroll, a research scientist in the department of aeronautical and astronautical engineering at the U. of I. "And because COIL's wavelength of 1.3 microns can be transmitted through fiber-optic cable with very little loss, this laser is extremely well suited for applications needing high power and remote fiber optic delivery."

One such application is the decommissioning and dismantling of old nuclear facilities, Carroll said. "Not only can COIL rapidly cut through many materials, including iron, stainless steel and concrete, but laser cutting minimizes dust and fumes, thus reducing costly waste disposal. The use of a remote fiber-delivered COIL cutting tool in contaminated areas would also lower the risks to workers."

COIL was developed at the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory (Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M.). To help commercialize the technology, the Air Force funded a Small Business Technology Transfer program with the U. of I. and STI Optronics in Bellevue, Wash.

As part of the program, Carroll and his U. of I. colleagues -- Wayne Solomon and Lee Sentman, both professors of aeronautical and astronautical engineering, and graduate student Darren King -- assembled a two-kilowatt COIL on the U. of I. campus. "This test bed gave us the capability to investigate new components and design techniques," Carroll said.

First demonstrated in 1977, the COIL system uses a series of chemical reactions to obtain excited atoms (or molecules) for subsequent lasing. A nozzle and buffer gas bring the primary flow to the supersonic velocities essential for operation.

"Using helium as the buffer gas, the Air Force had demonstrated a peak chemical efficiency of 27 percent," Carroll said. "But helium is relatively expensive, so one major objective of our program was to demonstrate high chemical efficiencies using less costly nitrogen as the buffer gas."

By developing an innovative nozzle design that was optimized for nitrogen, the researchers achieved a chemical efficiency of 23 percent. The redesigned nozzle also significantly reduced the amount of buffer gas required, further reducing the operating costs for a commercial COIL.

In addition to dismantling nuclear reactor facilities, COIL could be used in many other industrial applications, including shipbuilding, automotive manufacturing and heavy machinery manufacturing.

"The remote, flexible fiber-cutting tool could also be used underwater to seal small leaks in hulls without expensive dry-docking," Carroll said.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Related Nitrogen Articles from Brightsurf:

Chemistry: How nitrogen is transferred by a catalyst
Catalysts with a metal-nitrogen bond can transfer nitrogen to organic molecules.

Illinois research links soil nitrogen levels to corn yield and nitrogen losses
What exactly is the relationship between soil nitrogen, corn yield, and nitrogen loss?

Reducing nitrogen with boron and beer
The industrial conversion of nitrogen to ammonium provides fertiliser for agriculture.

New nitrogen products are in the air
A nifty move with nitrogen has brought the world one step closer to creating a range of useful products -- from dyes to pharmaceuticals -- out of thin air.

'Black nitrogen'
In the periodic table of elements there is one golden rule for carbon, oxygen, and other light elements.

A deep dive into better understanding nitrogen impacts
This special issue presents a selection of 13 papers that advance our understanding of cascading consequences of reactive nitrogen species along their emission, transport, deposition, and the impacts in the atmosphere.

How does an increase in nitrogen application affect grasslands?
The 'PaNDiv' experiment, established by researchers of the University of Bern on a 3000 m2 field site, is the largest biodiversity-ecosystem functioning experiment in Switzerland and aims to better understand how increases in nitrogen affect grasslands.

Reducing reliance on nitrogen fertilizers with biological nitrogen fixation
Crop yields have increased substantially over the past decades, occurring alongside the increasing use of nitrogen fertilizer.

Flushing nitrogen from seawater-based toilets
With about half the world's population living close to the coast, using seawater to flush toilets could be possible with a salt-tolerant bacterium.

We must wake up to devastating impact of nitrogen, say scientists
More than 150 top international scientists are calling on the world to take urgent action on nitrogen pollution, to tackle the widespread harm it is causing to humans, wildlife and the planet.

Read More: Nitrogen News and Nitrogen Current Events is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to