Physics senior design project takes on lasers

Tate Nazarro and Zack Sleegal are two Colorado School of Mines seniors in the Engineering Physics department. Together they are working on their senior design project, which is focused on laser design construction. They are working on a number of laser designs and the primary one is an external diode laser.

Nazarro described this project as construction-based and “not the most experimental research.” He went on to say, “We are working with the external cavity. Basically what that does is it allows us to tune the laser and alter its wavelength of operation while it’s running.” This is opposed to a static laser cavity which produces only one wavelength of light. According to Nazarro, experiments may require lasers more accurately tuned to certain wavelengths. The advantage of this laser is that it allows one to “sweep over frequencies of light… [to] find an obstruction spectrum in spectrometry application.” This is useful for determining compositions.

Nazarro and Sleegal’s research involves experimenting with “novel techniques of frequency tone generation.” This involves “setting up a ring of lasers and using an acousto-optic modulator to change the index of refraction in a gas.” This gives “a frequency spectrum using only a single pump beam, but in a recursively changing ring kind of thing,” said Nazarro.

When asked why he chose this research topic, Nazarro said that it stemmed from an interest in waves and the prestige of the optics program at Mines. Next year, he wants to continue studying waves, but this time from an acoustic perspective. He hopes to go to Penn State, the home of one of the most prestigious acoustic programs in the United States, to obtain either a Master’s or PhD. Then Nazarro hopes to work in the music industry designing audio systems, “The ideal goal would be to work for Apple, Bose, Sony on headphones and home audio systems and things like that,” he said. “I hope to combine my professional skills and interest in physics with my personal interest in music.”

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