Using a femtosecond laser, a team of researchers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (Greenbelt, MD) has shown that it can effectively weld glass to copper, glass to glass, and drill hair-sized pinholes in different materials for use in spaceflight applications.
The research group, led by optical physicist Robert Lafon, is expanding its research into more exotic glass, such as sapphire and Zerodur, and metals, such as titanium, Invar, Kovar, and aluminum—materials often used in spaceflight instruments. The goal is to weld larger pieces of these materials and show that the femtosecond laser technology is effective at adhering windows onto laser housings and optics to metal mounts, among other applications.
The laser energy doesn’t melt the targeted material—rather, it vaporizes it without heating the surrounding matter. As a result, technicians can precisely target the laser and bond dissimilar materials that otherwise couldn’t be attached without epoxies.