Rose-Hulman professor wins NASA grant

Paul Leisher (left) was chosen by NASA to develop new optical data technologies.
Paul Leisher (left) was chosen by NASA to develop new optical data technologies.
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology physics and optical engineering professor Paul Leisher recently received a $500,000 grant from NASA to develop high-priority optic technology for the for the U.S. space program.

The grant will fund two years of research for Leisher and a team of undergraduate and graduate students from the Terre Haute, Indiana school. The project will focus on designing and testing semiconductor lasers that will let NASA integrate high-speed, free-space optical communication systems into the program.

Leisher, who’s spent the better part of a decade developing such high-powered lasers, and his team will be developing a high-efficiency photonic integrated circuit (PIC) transmitter platform. That will give NASA access to a space-based Internet connection that runs about 10 thousand times faster than a typical broadband Internet connection.

Leisher said that’s because NASA’s hardware in space has special data-transfer requirements.

“Modern satellites must have efficient systems with the ability to transfer large amounts of data at very high speeds,” Leisher said. “Future laser transmitters must also be compact, lightweight, power-efficient, reliable and hardened against the harsh environment of space.”

Leisher’s project was one of 15 university-led ventures selected by NASA to address specific needs and challenges of space programs.

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Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology

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