AFRL Partners with New Mexico State University to Test DEW Cooling Solutions


Using a laser diode system on loan from the Air Force Research Laboratory, New Mexico State University Associate Professor Dr. Krishna Kota tests the integrity of the buckle seal of cooling flow located in the surface-environment interaction research laboratory (SIRE laboratory) at NMSU. The flow loop will be used to test the ability of new two-phase cooling approaches to handle the very challenging transient heat densities of directed energy weapon systems. Courtesy picture

AFRL News:

KIRTLAND AFB – The Air Force Research Laboratory’s Directed Energy Branch recently signed a 5-year Strategic Education Partnership (EPA) agreement with New Mexico State University (NMSU ) located in Las Cruces.

The EPA is extending the loan of a laser diode system that NMSU will use to test new cooling solutions for directed-energy lasers and high-power microwave systems.

“Heat is one of the major bottlenecks for effective deployment of directed energy weapons, or DEWs,” said Dr. Sean Ross, deputy technical area lead for high-energy lasers. “The heat generated during operation of a DEW impacts power consumption as well as the overall size and weight of the system. AFRL hopes that NMSU research will lead to new and improved solutions for cooling these systems.

NMSU is ready to resume testing in DEW cooling solutions that were discontinued in 2020.

“Our researchers are excited to renew their research using the AFRL diode laser system as a heat source, after two years of confinement due to COVID restrictions,” said NMSU Associate Professor Dr. Krishna Kota. “The heat densities of DEWs are similar to those felt at the exhaust of a rocket engine or in the immediate vicinity of a nuclear explosion. We have resumed work on a cooling flow loop that will be used to test the ability of a unique two-phase cooling approach to handle these very challenging transient heat densities.This cooling approach has already demonstrated record-breaking performance in preliminary experiments.If there are no unforeseen delays , we hope to complete flow loop testing this year.

Ross said nearly all current laser diode cooling research uses a resistive heatsink, such as a home heater, as the heat source to simulate the heat of a DEW, although the thermal load characteristics of a laser diode real are very different from an electric heater. .

“AFRL’s EPA with NMSU is allowing Dr. Kota’s team to test their concepts on a real laser diode that turns on and off like a real laser diode and not a resistive heater,” Ross said. .

There are several advantages for NMSU in this strategic EPA explained by Kota.

“This EPA will allow our researchers at NMSU to advance research into two-phase cooling for high heat flux applications,” Kota said. “Furthermore, it gives us access to state-of-the-art equipment and research experience for graduate and undergraduate students, furthering the development of the STEM workforce in an area of ​​national need. We look forward to providing the AFRL with useful results that will enhance their important work in directed energy for nation security.

AFRL also looks forward to the value the US Air Force will receive from its partnership with NMSU.

“AFRL will benefit by seeing the thermal potential of two-phase cooling for laser diodes,” Ross said. “Much previous research on surface enhancement for boiling has used very expensive and time-consuming vacuum deposition processes. “NMSU’s research in developing cooling solutions is to improve the boiling process with technology that is inexpensive and can be performed on any shaped surface, so this is a big deal.”

About the AFRL

The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is the principal scientific research and development center of the Department of the Air Force. The AFRL plays a critical role in the discovery, development and integration of affordable combat technologies for our air, space and cyberspace force. With a staff of over 11,500 people in nine technology areas and 40 other operations around the world, AFRL offers a diverse portfolio of science and technology ranging from basic research to advanced research and technology development. For more information visit:

About NMSU

New Mexico State University (NMSU) is a land-grant research graduate university. It is a NASA Space Grant College, a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI), and home to New Mexico’s first Honors College. With annual research expenditures exceeding $110 million, the National Science Foundation ranks NMSU among the top 20 universities for science and engineering funding among all HSIs nationwide. US News and World Report ranks NMSU first among the best national universities. It was also named one of the top military friendly schools and received gold designation on the list of military friendly schools, making it one of the top 10% institutions nationwide for military students . For more information visit:


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