2019 02 18

Lasers Carry Expansion of Lithuanian Market

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Lithuanian lasers have made the name of Lithuania known worldwide. They are used by many of the world’s research institutions and businesses. Lithuanian laser developers continue to expand the reach of their international network. At the same time, they are doing their best to activate their home market – not just to sell more Lithuanian lasers but so that more Lithuanian products are manufactured with them.

An Irreplaceable Tool

“Laser light can be highly concentrated with respect to space and time. This is why you only need a little energy to change the physical state of any material – melting or evaporating it,” explains Dr. Gediminas Račiukaitis, head of the Laser Technology Department at the Centre for Physical Sciences and Technology (FTMC).

The light pulses of ultrashort pulse lasers are very short, which means that surrounding materials are more protected from heat compared to other thermal processing methods. The material can be modified locally when greater precision is required, allowing cuts of not even a millimetre or a fraction of a millimetre wide, but the size of a micron or a fraction of a micron.

This advantage allows the lasers to process materials that are sensitive to heat to the extent that it changes their characteristics. Such materials are used quite frequently by the electronics industry for all thin-layered material systems. In this field, maintains Dr. Račiukaitis, the laser is an irreplaceable tool.

Even for the Popemobile

Processing technology for thin-layered materials in thin-layered electronics and solar panels is one research area the FTMC Department of Laser Technology works in. The team developed a technology known as selective surface activation induced by laser. An electrical chain scheme can be used to write with a laser beam directly on a plastic or glass surface, modifying and further selective electroless copper plating on modified areas.

“This technology offers great prospects for electronics, because we are constantly trying to reduce things to a smaller size,” claims Račiukaitis. This new method has an especially rapid laser writing rate while maintaining a high metal plating resolution. This technology is also more cost-effective compared to the direct laser structuring technology used widely in the industry.

In cooperation with the FIAT Research Centre, the FTMC team has created working electronic schemes for the FIAT 500. It has been announced that Pope Francis will be using this car to travel across the Baltics.

Growing User-Base in Lithuania

Another area that uses unique lasers is transparent material processing. The most popular example of an application would be a laser-cut mobile phone screen. It is thin, tempered and thus difficult to process mechanically.

Transparent materials are also used as trays for developing semi-conductor structures, for example, LEDs. Later, the trays are cut into smaller elements and every one of them becomes a light. Researchers collaborate with Lithuanian companies to develop and apply this technology.

For more than 10 years now, UAB Precizika Metrology has been using a laser system developed by FTMC researchers and Ekspla to manufacture raster rulers. The use of laser technology enables businesses to produce templates for non-standard precision instruments more quickly. A new system is currently being developed to make ruler markings even more precise, more complex and more resilient to changes in temperature, vibrations and other factors.

“We do our best to do our research in a direction that could lead to more users in Lithuania. Kaunas is attracting companies like Hella and Continental, Šiauliai recently welcomed Frilux. We’re looking for ways they could apply our technology. So that this industry could grow. Not just so we could sell more lasers, but so more products that were manufactured with our lasers could be sold,” emphasises the head of the FTMC Department of Laser Technology.

For Therapy and Diagnostics

There are increasingly more applications for lasers in medicine. They are used for urological, cardiovascular, oncological and gynaecological surgery and cleaning arteries with photoablation. Lasers are used for removing wrinkles, hair, varicose veins, acne scars, tattoos and skin pigmentation, correcting the figure and removing fat. Laser surgery for vision correction, cataracts and glaucomas is also very common.  Lasers are also used for diagnostics, non-linear fluorescence microscopy, endoscopy, flow cytometry and photoacoustic imaging.

UAB PhotoSana was founded in order to combine the experience of the Lithuanian laser company Eksma and South Korean medical device manufacturers; at the moment, the company is getting ready to launch a picosecond system for aesthetic dermatology. As the company director Dr. Zenonas Kuprionis explains, the device is unique because of its short 150-picosecond laser pulses. They allow much more effective procedures that are less painful and have fewer after-effects than other lasers currently available in the international market.

The company also plans to manufacture a non-linear microscopy device for cancer diagnostics. Along with the researchers of the FTMC, it is currently conducting a wide range of second harmonic microscopy studies using ultrashort pulse fibre lasers.

Smart Casts, Laser Clouds

UAB Optronika operates on several fronts. One of these is the application of lasers in the area of health. In partnership with MT Sprendimai and the Lithuanian Sports University, the company has created a smart orthopaedic cast with built-in laser systems. Dr. Viktoras Vaičikauskas, director of innovation at Optronika, assures that an innovative product will soon hit the market. At the moment, the team is perfecting the prototype design. The technological solutions built into the case will allow the patient to regulate the cast without the help of medical specialists. The smart device will improve mobility and speed up the recovery process. The cast has a special-purpose accumulator that allows the patient to carry out certain procedures as they walk.

In the area of photodynamic cancer therapy, the company collaborates with Professor Laima Bloznelytė. Testing with flexible laser systems for the skin and fiber laser application for internal organs has just begun.

In the near future, the market should see the emergence of a one-of-a-kind product called a laser cloud. These slow-moving wall-projections were developed as a form of light therapy for treating neurological disorders or simply for relaxing at home after a hard day’s work.

The company belongs to the Lithuanian Laser Association and employs a team of six. As Dr. Vaičikauskas makes clear, small companies must be very flexible and take on different kinds of projects. If one horse cannot carry on, the next horse should take over.

Making Its Way Toward Practical Application

The FTMC Terahertz Photonics Laboratory is an R&D leader in the science of terahertz detection and photonic components both in Lithuania and the Baltic states.

“The terahertz detectors, sources, diffractive elements and the spectroscopic imaging algorithms we have developed can be applied in the field of medicine, material diagnostics and security,” explains Dr. Irmantas Kašalynas, head of the Terahertz Photonics Laboratory.

FTMC researchers were successful in creating a universal imaging system. It enables specialists to rapidly record terahertz images of relatively large-scaled objects at a frequency of 0.3 THz or 0.6 THz. These frequencies ensure the necessary spatial resolution for identifying ‘hidden’ objects in postal packages and diagnosing skin and gastric cancer.  The imaging system uses unique high-sensitivity and rapid reaction THz frequency detectors that operate in a regular room environment. These detectors were used to develop a commercial terahertz detector ruler, successfully launched by UAB Luvitera, a startup set up as part of a successful partnership between the FTMC and the University of Ljubljana.

Another technology created by the FTMC Terahertz Photonics Laboratory enables gallium-nitride heterostructures to be made into modern electronics components such as high electron mobility field effect transistors. On the basis of these components, researchers expect to create a compact, electrically pumped terahertz emitter, the functioning of which could be retuned to external voltage. According to Dr. Kašalynas, this is an especially ambitious task both with respect to the development of a new technology and to plasmonic physics.

Curated by the Agency for Science, Innovation and Technology (MITA), OPEN R&D Lithuania is the largest innovation infrastructure, service and competence network in the Baltic states and unites the country’s universities, research institutes, science and technology parks and open access centres, helping Lithuanian researchers developing advanced technologies meet entrepreneurs from Lithuania and beyond and encouraging their cooperation. In order to help businesses find what they need among a vast array of R&D services, MITA set up the Contact Centre. An emailed enquiry is enough to solicit an answer as to where a business should refer to next. Network facilitators will help organisations find business and research contacts and assist them in becoming a partner.

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