Shifting a laser light’s wavelength and frequency makes it possible to operationalize unused EMS wavelengths in contested areas, preventing adversaries from using those wavelengths while crippling their communications, targeting, and signal detection capabilities. It also allows more lasers to operate in the infrared (IR) portion of the EMS, which means more opportunities to use laser-guided targeting systems, laser-based aircraft and ground vehicle countermeasures systems, EO/IR sensors, laser weapons sights, precision range finders, vehicle protection systems (VPS), and more.

How do non-linear optical materials work?

Most NLO materials used for military and intelligence purposes are optical crystals. In these crystals, the electric field associated with light can interact with the crystal’s internal structure – also known as its lattice – in non-linear (unexpected) ways. This nonlinear response usually only occurs under very intense irradiation, like that from a laser, and can be used to achieve frequency-converting processes that can shift the laser’s wavelength into the spectral range needed for a particular use or application. For efficient frequency conversion, a crystal must:

  • Be non-centrosymmetric (have a non-zero nonlinearity)
  • Have a nonlinear d-coefficient large enough to generate tunable wavelengths over a broad range
  • Be highly transparent at the required input and output wavelengths
  • Be able to match different phases

Because NLO materials are in great demand worldwide, growing these crystals in a material growth laboratory is a critical way to help meet the need. For EW systems developers and U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) partners, in particular, growing non-linear crystals internally may be the smartest – or only – way to assure consistent and readily available materials when they are needed most.

For more about growing NLO crystals, go to


This information page is provided as a service to our readers by BAE Systems, Inc., a U.S.-based world leader in aerospace, defense, power, and intelligence solutions. Learn more about us here.

Space Products

Electronic Systems

Learn more about our products and services.
Read more