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Sources and Detectors Group


The Sources and Detectors Group conducts research on the characterization of lasers, detectors, and related components. Principally through measurement services and innovation, the group provides the optoelectronics industry with traceability to national standards. Activities of the group are currently carried out in two project areas: Fiber Sources and Applications and Laser Radiometry. 

Members of the Fiber Sources and Applications Project use frequency combs working at optical telecommunications wavelengths to develop measurement technology for a growing list of applications. Project physicists have transmitted signals from next-generation optical atomic clocks across hundreds of kilometers and have demonstrated how pairs of combs can increase by a factor of one hundred the speed of infrared spectroscopy for chemical analysis, while also enhancing sensitivity. Frequency combs also promise to provide extremely accurate distance measurements and to assess the quality of high-speed telecommunications signals with unprecedented precision.

Research in the Laser Radiometry Project is concerned with measuring laser, detector, and component properties such as laser power, laser beam profile, detector spectral responsivity, detector linearity and the attenuation of transmission components. To calibrate detectors and instruments used to measure the power or energy produced by a laser, the project has developed a family of standards that allow the accurate comparison of absorbed optical power to dissipated electrical power. Together, these standards permit calibrations at power levels from nanowatts to hundreds of kilowatts and energy levels from femtojoules to megajoules. Wavelength ranges include the visible through the near infrared, and selected wavelengths in the ultraviolet and mid infrared. For more information, see the Measurement Services section of this site. Instruments designed to receive power either in collimated beams or through optical fibers can be accommodated.


Laser Radiometry—Accurate characterization of photonic equipment is important for optical communications, medical devices, semiconductor lithography, manufacturing and materials processing. Our project focuses on …

Terahertz Imaging and Sources—Imaging in the terahertz frequency range enables the detection of concealed weapons and other contraband (e.g., explosives under clothing) without the use of ionizing radiation. Spectroscopy in …

"cupcakes" of vertically aligned carbon nanotube arrays (VANTAs) grown on silicon
"Cupcakes" of vertically aligned carbon nanotube arrays (VANTAs) grown on silicon, which appears blue in the photo. (Photo: Tomlin/NIST)
Illustration of a dual laser frequency comb setup (depicted as rainbow-colored cartoons) to detect the simultaneous signatures of "greenhouse" gases along a 2 km path. (Photo: Burrus and Irvine/NIST)

John Lehman, Group Leader

Mail Stop 815.01
325 Broadway
Boulder, CO 80305-3328

Sources and Detectors Group Staff Directory