ILX joins MIRTHE as associate member

BOZEMAN, MT—ILX Lightwave, the maker of quantum-cascade (QC) laser accessories (as well as instruments and accessories for other uses), has become an associate member of the Center for Mid-InfraRed Technologies for Health and the Environment (MIRTHE; Princeton, NJ).

Oct 1st, 2009

BOZEMAN, MT—ILX Lightwave, the maker of quantum-cascade (QC) laser accessories (as well as instruments and accessories for other uses), has become an associate member of the Center for Mid-InfraRed Technologies for Health and the Environment (MIRTHE; Princeton, NJ).

ILX and the QC laser market

ILX Lightwave has found the most success in the QC laser market with three products: precision current sources, mounting fixtures, and precision temperature controllers, according to Patrick Gale, product marketing engineer at ILX. The company is focused on developing instrumentation for controlling QC lasers. For example, its precision continuous-wave (CW) current source provides adequate compliance voltage for QC lasers, as well as multiple layers of laser protection—especially important for expensive QC lasers. Its laser mounts have temperature-control ranges relevant to QC lasers (-30°C to 30°C), while temperature-control hardware has a long-term stability of +/- 0.005°C.

Collaboration with MIRTHE researchers began before the recent announcement of ILX Lightwave’s membership. In 2005, ILX worked with eventual MIRTHE members on the development of the current source, which is the market’s first CW laser diode driver specifically designed for QC lasers, says Gale. This year, ILX worked closely with MIRTHE to develop ILX’s QC laser mount.

MIRTHE’s goals

Headquartered at Princeton University, MIRTHE is a first-tier academic center for research into mid-IR optical technologies, with an emphasis on sensing for biophotonics and the environment. The center is directed by a prominent figure in the field—Claire Gmachl, a professor of electrical engineering at Princeton University who has made large contributions to QC laser technology over the years.

MIRTHE is a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center, with partners City College New York, Johns Hopkins University, Rice, Texas A&M, and the University of Maryland Baltimore County. The center is based on a team of engineers, chemists, physicists, environmental and bioengineers, and clinicians. Its goal is to develop new mid-IR (wavelength range of 3 to 30 microns) optical trace-gas-sensing systems with the ability to detect minute amounts of chemicals found in the environment or atmosphere, emitted from spills, combustion, or natural sources, or exhaled.

While the optical technologies being developed by scientists at MIRTHE are varied (for example, quartz enhanced photoacoustic spectroscopy, which is based on a quartz tuning fork that is acoustically modulated by a laser), the center is best-known for its research into QC laser technology. MIRTHE has attracted a number of universities and photonics businesses as partners. The arrangement is a two-way street: leading-edge ideas flow from academia to business, while experimentation benefits from the use of proven commercial hardware.

The collaboration

The support that ILX is offering the researchers at MIRTHE will include donating equipment to the center for development of QC lasers used in spectroscopy applications, notes Gale. In return, he adds, “working with world leaders in QC lasers will allow ILX to develop world-class instrumentation for QC lasers. We hope that ILX will gain additional insights into the emerging instrumentation needs of the QC laser market and be able to support MIRTHE members with high-performance instrumentation solutions to meet these needs.” In addition to the detection of toxic substances, these needs include instruments to be used by the medical industry for diagnosing diseases.

—John Wallace

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