TeraDiode, MIT Lincoln Lab Spinoff, Trying to Create the Future of Laser Weapons & Welding

7/5/11Follow @gthuang

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ship,” Sossen says, that could be used to disable enemy UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) or even blow up incoming rockets or artillery shells.

That’s still more than five years away, though. In the nearer term, TeraDiode is looking to deploy the world’s most advanced deterrent to heat-seeking missiles, Sossen says. Here’s how it works. The company’s laser system could be mounted on the back of a fighter plane’s fuselage. If a missile is launched at the plane, the laser would deliver a dazzling enough burst of infrared light to confuse the seeker head so it can’t home in on the target. (It might also destroy the missile, but that presumably would require a more powerful beam.) Field testing for this airborne system could begin in about a year, Sossen says, with full deployment in three to five years, if all goes well.

There are plenty of other near-term military applications as well, he says—things like illuminating targets (which is typically done so they can be photographed or shot at) from great distances via a laser that is handheld or mounted on a jeep, helicopter, or UAV.

So far, the company’s revenues have come from its defense work, Sossen says. But it is planning to have commercial sales later this year, in less, uh, flashy areas such as manufacturing (the aforementioned cutting and welding). TeraDiode might have lofty goals, but being a startup means hustling for money anywhere it can be found—and doing whatever it takes to win customers. After all, the firm is competing with lots of big defense contractors and established industrial laser makers worldwide.

“In a small-company environment, everybody has to be willing to do everything all the time,” Sossen says.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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