NASA Engineer Develops Tiny, High-Powered Laser to Find Water on the Moon

Berhanu Bulcha shows off his terahertz laser technology in his lab at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. Credits: NASA/Michael Giunto

Finding water on the Moon could be easier with a Goddard technology that uses an effect called quantum tunneling to generate a high-powered terahertz laser, filling a gap in existing laser technology.

Locating water and other resources is a NASA priority crucial to exploring Earth’s natural satellite and other objects in the solar system and beyond. Previous experiments inferred, then confirmed the existence of small amounts of water across the Moon. However, most technologies do not distinguish among water, free hydrogen ions, and hydroxyl, as the broadband detectors used cannot distinguish between the different volatiles.

Goddard engineer Dr. Berhanu Bulcha said:

a type of instrument called a heterodyne spectrometer could zoom in on particular frequencies to definitively identify and locate water sources on the Moon. It would need a stable, high-powered, terahertz laser, which was prototyped in collaboration with Longwave Photonics through NASA’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program. […]

Biography of Nasa Scientist Dr. Engineer Berhanu T. Bulcha

He received an M.S. degree in electrical engineering from Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA, USA, in 2011, and a Ph.D. degree in microwave engineering from the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, in 2015., He is currently a Design and Test Engineer at Virginia Diodes, Inc., Charlottesville, VA, USA. His research interests include development of compact millimeter and submillimeter wavelength devices and systems for different applications. (Based on document published on 4 August 2016).


Author: Mulugeta Woldetsadik, Librarian/Information Professional at Hawassa University, Ethiopia [21st Century LIS Network: Information_Knowledge Retrieval & Dissemination Platform]

Mulugeta Woldetsadik, Librarian/Information Professional @ Hawassa University, , Sidama Region, Ethiopia

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