- Problem: Lack of expertise in femtosecond
- Solution: Long term collaboration to conduct R&D
- Partners: PRI
- Impact: Establishing a femtosecond optics lab in Nepal is to open several windows of opportunities to work in the area of femtosecond optics, enhance the quality of research in Nepal and consequently develop a highly skilled scientific workforce to work in applications that are relevant for solving their local needs.
General Background: Femtosecond Optics Lab
Many of the physical, chemical and biological processes are governed by the properties that emerge from the electromagnetic interactions of constituent atoms or molecules. Light being the oscillating electromagnetic field that we can generate, manipulate and measure, is an important tool with which we can study, observe and manipulate the properties of materials. The field of optics generally is concerned with these applications.
Many of the interesting physical, chemical and biological phenomena, such as in the context of photochemical reactions in the light harvesting complexes in plants, the detection of light in the retina of the mammalian eye, functioning of the solar cells, photodiodes or light emitting diodes, etc., occur in the timescale of femtoseconds (one femtosecond is a millionth of a billionth of a second: typically it takes about 100 fs for the light to cross the width of a strand of human hair). Such studies are therefore done with the help of light sources, called femtosecond lasers, that emit light pulses in the scale of femtoseconds. Another interesting aspect of these light sources is that the instantaneous power of such pulses can be tremendously high, typically in the order of several Megawatts, even when the average power of the laser in macroscopic timescale is relatively low (few watts). This opens another avenue in studying and manipulating the properties of material for various applications requiring high optical intensity, which would otherwise not be possible in a relatively low-cost setting. The field of optics concerned with the use of femtosecond laser pulses for these applications is called femtosecond optics.
Femtosecond optics has been continually evolving for several decades now, and it remains an active field of research for many cutting-edge applications and discoveries. Scientists and students in Nepal have so far lacked an opportunity to work and contribute in this area. The aim of establishing a femtosecond optics lab in Nepal is to open several windows of opportunities to work in the area of femtosecond optics, enhance the quality of research in Nepal and consequently develop a highly skilled scientific workforce to work in applications that are relevant for solving their local needs.
Recognizing its importance in improving the quality of research in Nepal, the World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) and UNESCO, has provided a grant to establish the femtosecond optics lab at Phutung Research Institute (PRI). Within the framework of this grant, we have recently procured a Clark-MXR’s Magellan-5 with 5 W (average power), 150 fs (pulse duration), 20 MHz (pulse repetition rate) (for detailed specification of the laser, please click the link). With this laser, we wish to explore a broad range of applications as discussed below. Please note that the following are only a few examples of the general areas we wish to expand into, but we are also open to exploring collaboration opportunities on any other project/s that (1) may be of interest to the potential partners, and (2) are within our capacity, as we shall determine after mutual consultation. The projects are:
Surface treatment for medical implants
We wish to study the changes in the properties of surfaces of materials usually used in medical implants after exposure to the femtosecond pulses, in order to identify the doses that enhance biocompatibility and utility of the surfaces.
Medical implants (eg. stainless steel implants for healing fractures) need a hydrophilic surface with a large effective area so that tissues can adhere and proliferate onto the surface of the implant easily. Femtosecond lasers have been used to create microstructures and to remove any hydrophobic components on the surface of the medical implants. Because of the lack of local processing facilities in Nepal, such implants are usually imported from Singapore, China and India. Import and shipping delays pose serious problems to the patients in need, particularly when the items are out-of-stock or when the implants need to be customized to the patient’s need. In this project, several methods for the treatment of surfaces of medical implants will be explored with an objective to train local expertise and help develop a local industry to produce and customize such medical implants.