by Staff Writers
Ann Arbor, Mich. (UPI) Sep 3, 2010
A new laser technology could protect helicopters in combat from heat-seeking missiles, University of Michigan researchers say.
Using inexpensive, off-the-shelf telecommunications fiber optics, Mohammed Islam, a professor in the UM Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, has developed sturdy and portable "mid-infrared supercontinuum lasers" that could blind heat-seeking weapons from a distance of 1.8 miles, a university release said.
"Battlefield terrain in places like Afghanistan and Iraq can be so rough that our troops have often had to rely on helicopters, and they can be easy targets for enemies with shoulder-launched missiles," Islam says.
"Our lasers give off a signal that's like throwing sand in the eyes of the missile."
The lasers are promising for helicopter protection because their robust, simple design can withstand the vibrations of helicopter flight.
Most lasers emit light of just one wavelength. But supercontinuum lasers give off a focused beam packed with light from a much broader range of wavelengths.
Islam's mid-infrared supercontinuum laser is the first to operate in longer infrared wavelengths that heat-seeking missiles use to home in on the infrared radiation that a helicopter engine emits.
By emitting a broad spectrum of infrared light, it can effectively mimic the engine's electromagnetic signature and confuse any incoming weapons, Islam said.
Learn about laser weapon technology at SpaceWar.com
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