In this paper we seek to assess the potential impact of microstructured fibres for security and defence applications. Recent literature has presented results on using microstructured fibre for delivery of high power, high quality radiation and also on the use of microstructured fibre for broadband source generation.
Whilst these two applications may appear contradictory to one another the inherent design flexibility of microstructured fibres allows fibres to be fabricated for the specific application requirements, either minimising (for delivery) or maximising (for broadband source generation) the nonlinear effects.
In platform based laser applications such as infrared counter measures, remote sensing and laser directed-energy weapons, a suitable delivery fibre providing high power, high quality light delivery would allow a laser to be sited remotely from the sensor/device head. This opens up the possibility of several sensor/device types sharing the same multi-functional laser, thus reducing the complexity and hence the cost of such systems.
For applications requiring broadband source characteristics, microstructured fibres can also offer advantages over conventional sources. By exploiting the nonlinear effects it is possible to realise a multifunctional source for applications such as active hyperspectral imaging, countermeasures, and biochemical sensing.
These recent results suggest enormous potential for these novel fibre types to influence the next generation of photonic systems for security and defence applications. However, it is important to establish where the fibres can offer the greatest advantages and what research still needs to be done to drive the technology towards real platform solutions.