Startup's short-pulse laser tech has DoD's interest

A small high-tech startup in Northern California has caught the attention of some big investors, including the Defense Department, all due to a breakthough in laser technology, reports the Santa Rosa (CA) Press Democrat.Lasers have a wide variety of applications and have been used for years in everything from bar codes to medical equipment.

A small high-tech startup in Northern California has caught the attention of some big investors, including the Defense Department, all due to a breakthough in laser technology, reports the Santa Rosa (CA) Press Democrat.

Lasers have a wide variety of applications and have been used for years in everything from bar codes to medical equipment. Raydiance, located in Petaluma, CA, has developed ultra-short-pulse laser technology that could one day treat cancer or disarm roadside bombs.

"We saw a new way for light to interact with matter," said Scott Davison, president at Raydiance Inc.

The breakthough hasn't gone unnoticed by venture capitalists. Raydiance has $25 million in venture funding and a $10 million research contract from the U.S. Navy, as well as backing from Barry Schuler, ex-CEO of Time Warner's AOL unit, and former Sen. Bill Bradley, D-N.J.

Essentially, short-pulse lasers disrupt the atomic bonds of whatever material it's aimed at. The beam is so fast that it vaporizes before there's any damage to its surroundings. Short-pulse technology is very precise, which means it could be used to remove tattoos, speed healing time, treat tumors and even remotely sense explosive devices and disable them. Obviously, there are many potential application but most are still in the research phase.

"You can remove what you don't want and not damage what you do want," Davison said.

Raydiance acquired the core technology from the University of Central Florida's laser program, which had been working on a short-pulse project with the Defense Department. Now, Raydiance has developed a desktop, software-driven laser, using fiber optics to miniaturize the device and substituting software for mechanical controls. "It looks a lot more like a computer than an optical device," Davison said. So far, Raydiance has placed about 15 of the $400,000 systems in research and development labs.

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