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NASA JPL’s Hollow-Core Photonic Crystal Fiber Lamp

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Laboratory: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL)

Technology: Hollow-core photonic crystal fiber (HCPCF) mercury lamp 

Opportunity: This JPL technology is currently available for licensing, and has been demonstrated using a commercial HCPCF at visible wavelength.

Details: The HCPCF mercury lamp was developed to generate higher intensity light for mercury ion clocks. Conventional plasma discharge lamps limit the short-term stability of a clock because they do not output sufficient ultraviolet (UV) light. With the HCPCF lamp, plasma is generated along the length of the fiber and excited by a coil, thus producing UV light. When the fiber is lengthened, more light can be generated and the clock signal-to-noise ratio is increased, leading to an overall improvement in clock short-term stability.

Benefits: JPL’s HCPCF lamps offer great benefit in that they are mass-producible and can be fabricated in a repeatable manner, allowing for standardization of these optical sources. They also produce higher intensity light, which improves the short-term stability of mercury in ion clocks. 

Potential Applications

  • Optical systems for ground-based mercury ion frequency
  • Meteorology
  • Standard timekeeping
  • Nanomaterial synthesis
  • Medicine
  • And more.

Contact: For more information about this JPL technology, contact Mark Homer at [email protected].

To view the original technology fact sheet for the HCPCF lamp, visit