Although the higher atmospheric layers (i.e., those between 30 and 120 km) are increasingly intriguing to climate researchers, only sounding rockets can directly access the regions above 40 km. Such research will soon be possible remotely thanks to a recently created LIDAR system built on a diode-pumped alexandrite laser.
Scientists are creating an independent, transportable device. The team predicts that such a LIDAR network will be able to deliver data from the atmosphere on a big scale and continuously in the future.
With its own LIDAR systems, the IAP in Kühlungsborn, Germany, has been leading study into the mesosphere since the 1990s. The large system’s flash lamp-pumped alexandrite laser could occupy an entire ship container. Its use was also restricted because it needed an intricate alignment and used a lot of energy.
The device is practically maintenance-free and about the size of a washing machine. In addition to shrinking in size, its energy usage has decreased—now under 500W—by a factor of 100.
The new system’s main component is a diode-pumped alexandrite laser created by the ILT. The device provides high spatial and temporal resolution, which generates pulses with a maximum energy of 1.7 mJ at a repetition rate of 500 Hz. It allows for accurate measurements at the intended altitudes thanks to its pulse-to-pulse stability of 0.2% and excellent beam quality (M2 better than 1.1). The laser’s small line width of less than 4 MHz in pulsed single-frequency operation is another crucial component for LIDAR uses.
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