EU project GALACTIC develops supply chain for Alexandrite laser crystals

Logo of the GALACTIC project. (Graphics: LZH)

The GALACTIC consortium qualifies Alexandrite laser crystals for high-performance applications in space. (Graphics: LZH)

In the EU project "High Performance Alexandrite Crystals and Coatings for High Power Space Applications" (GALACTIC), the LZH wants to develop a solely European supply chain for space-qualified high-performance laser crystals made of Alexandrite with the partners Optomaterials S.r.l. (Italy) and Altechna Coatings UAB (Lithuania). These laser crystals are to be used in earth observation satellites in space.

Laser systems in earth observation satellites generate data for the analysis of the earth's atmosphere and surface. So far, laser crystals made of neodymium-doped yttrium aluminum garnet (short: Nd:YAG) have been used. The emitted wavelength of Nd:YAG crystals, however, cannot be tuned. Alexandrite crystals are tunable by nature and also superior to Nd:YAG crystals in other basic properties such as thermal conductivity and breaking strength. Therefore, the European Space Agency (ESA) is currently investigating whether these crystals can replace YAG crystals in the future.

However, the prerequisite for this is the sufficient availability of space-qualified Alexandrite laser crystals. The USA still dominate the market for Alexandrite laser crystals, but they are already available as an industrial product in Europe. The partners in the GALACTIC project now want to bring the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of European Alexandrite laser crystals for high-performance applications in space from currently TRL 4 to
TRL 6.

In the GALACTIC project, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH), together with Altechna Coatings UAB and Optomaterials S.r.l., wants to improve the process of crystal growing and post-treatment, develop novel coating concepts and manufacture a laser demonstrator. In that way, an independent, solely European supply chain for Alexandrite laser crystals is to be set up. GALACTIC receives funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under grant agreement No 870427.

More information about GALACTIC is available at

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Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH)

As an independent, non-profit research institute, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) stands for innovative research, development and consulting. The LZH is supported by the Niedersachsen Ministry of Economic Affairs, Employment, Transport and Digitalisation and is dedicated to the selfless promotion of applied research in the field of photonics and laser technology. Founded in 1986, over 170 employees are now working for the LZH.

The focus of the LZH lies on the fields of optical components and systems, optical production technologies, and biomedical photonics. Interdisciplinary cooperation between natural scientists and mechanical engineers makes innovative approaches to challenges from the most different areas possible: from the development of components for specific laser systems to process developments for the most diverse laser applications, for example for medical technology or lightweight construction in the automotive sector. Eighteen spin off companies have emerged from the LZH up to now. Thus, the LZH has created a strong transfer between fundamental science, application oriented research, and industry.