An associate professor in the physics and optical engineering department at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology has been selected for a NASA program focusing on filling high-priority needs within the U.S. space program. Paul Leisher and a group of students are working to design and test lasers for high-speed communication between space and Earth. Leisher has been awarded $500,000 in hopes of developing transmitters that would be 10 times faster than typical broadband Internet speeds.
Rose-Hulman was the only school in the state to be selected among the 15 nationwide colleges and universities for the 2015 Early Stage Innovations program. You can connect to the full list of participants by clicking here.
Leisher has spent nearly a decade developing the kind of high-efficiency, high-power semiconductor lasers this effort is targeting. He says "modern satellites must have efficient systems with the ability to transfer large amounts of data at very high speeds Future laser transmitters must also be compact, lightweight, power efficient, reliable and hardened against the harsh environment of space."
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Leisher cited examples of potential uses for this rapidly-changing technology, including closer-to-real-time video and images being sent back to earth during missions. He says delivering data bandwidth more quickly is the issue. Currently, Leisher says, there is a "speed limit" to radio frequency communication. NASA has all manner of satellites, probes and monitoring technology working within and outside Earth’s atmosphere that could benefit from a larger, more efficient data pipeline. Leisher says in current conditions, "the bottleneck is getting that data from the instrument to earth."
Leisher says California-based high-speed photonic integrated circuit technology startup Freedom Photonics are partnering on the project. He says final details are currently being ironed out with NASA and the two-year effort is expected to be funded and get underway in January.
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology Associate Professor in Physics and Optical Engineering Paul Leisher tells Inside INdiana Business the goal is to create technology that hasn’t been deployed yet.