SCOTTISH scientists have notched up a global first with a high-precision portable laser which is the size of a pack of playing cards.

The device was created by the Fraunhofer Centre for Applied Photonics in Glasgow for, and in collaboration with, Optocap, an optoelectronics design and manufacturing company based in Livingston.

Optocap is devising its own product line and approached Fraunhofer’s team of experts to use their expertise in creating lasers for commercial use.

The resulting innovation is 10 times cheaper than any alternatives and can be used in a range of quantum technologies, such as clocks and sensors. Precision clocks will help enable the next generation of GPS that could assist autonomous navigation systems and benefit the telecommunications sector, while precision sensors can improve navigation in an aircraft, for example, without relying on GPS and during poor visibility.

Now, following a year of prototype development and testing by the Fraunhofer Centre, Optocap is manufacturing and selling the compact product.

Its development was supported by Innovate UK’s Quantum Technologies initiative, which has seen further government investment of £153 million, with an additional £205m from industry, to “unlock the potential of quantum technologies”.

Optocap chief executive, Stephen Duffy, said: “We worked with Fraunhofer’s Centre for Applied Photonics because they excel in applying world-class laser design knowledge and research to real life problems.

“Their know-how, combined with our sophisticated precision manufacturing expertise and market vision, has produced a unique product with a wide range of important applications.”

Dr Loyd McKnight, from Fraunhofer’s Centre for Applied Photonics, added: “The purpose of Fraunhofer, a network of international research centres, is to use science to generate technologies for economic and societal gain.

“This new laser is a great example of our mission and it’s very satisfying to see it now available in the rapidly developing quantum technology market.”