PSI acquires QC-laser maker Maxion

ANDOVER, MA--Physical Sciences Inc. (PSI) has acquired Maxion Technologies (College Park, MD); this is important to the photonics industry because Maxion is one of the few commercial quantum-cascade-laser companies in the world.

ANDOVER, MA--Physical Sciences Inc. (PSI) has acquired Maxion Technologies (College Park, MD); this is important to the photonics industry because Maxion is one of the few commercial quantum-cascade-laser companies in the world.

PSI provides contract research and development services to U.S. government and industrial customers in optical materials, lasers, photonic devices, and electro-optic systems; the company also produces specialty electro-optic components and systems for sale to these customers. Maxion develops and produces quantum-cascade lasers (QCLs), interband-cascade lasers (ICLs), and related systems.

Although Maxion has only a few competitors, the ones that exist are formidable. Perhaps the most well-known is Daylight Solutions (Poway, CA), which makes tunable and fixed-wavelength room-temperature mid-IR QCLs, which the company called “tiny tunables” when it introduced them in 2006 (and which won the 2006 PhaST/Laser Focus World Innovation award: see http://www.laserfocusworld.com/articles/257229). The company’s founder is Tim Day, who co-founded New Focus (Santa Clara, CA). Daylight Solution’s lasers are widely integrated into biomedical, military, sensing, and industrial systems.

Another competitor, Pranalytica (Santa Monica, CA), was founded by Kumar Patel, who invented the carbon dioxide laser in 1964 when he was at Bell Labs. Pranalytica produces QC lasers with power levels of two watts, much higher than the usual hundred-milliwatt-range levels for this kind of emitter (see http://www.laserfocusworld.com/articles/352386).

Alpes Lasers (Neuchâtel, Switzerland) makes continuous-wave and pulsed QCLs in both distributed-feedback and Fabry-Perot architectures that are integrated into sensing devices (see http://www.laserfocusworld.com/articles/355393). Cascade Technologies (Stirling, England) makes QCLS for sensing, security, and scientific use.

Mid-IR research

Maxion is and has been part of the mid-IR research community; it is a partner of the Mid-Infrared Technologies for Health and the Environment (MIRTHE; Princeton, NJ) center, a National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center headquartered at Princeton University and launched in 2006. “Every nascent technology needs a community to gather around and chart the path forward. MIRTHE is providing that to the mid-IR community,” said Maxion Technologies’ CEO Sohrab Zarbarian during a March 11 breakfast meeting at Pittcon 2009 that was hosted by MIRTHE.

Zarbarian noted that Maxion has been a MIRTHE partner since the beginning, “and this has had a positive effect on the company,” he said, pointing to benefits such as access to world-class faculty, facilities, potential hires, and intellectual property. He also emphasized the importance of both formal and informal interaction with other industrial partners facilitated by MIRTHE: “Interaction is extremely important at this stage of the technology.”

PSI and Maxion together

“The acquisition of Maxion allows PSI to provide vertically integrated QCL/ ICL solutions to our customers, as well as continue to provide QCL/ICL devices and research-and-development support to Maxion’s existing OEM and research customers,” said PSI’s president and CEO, B. David Green. “Furthermore, the combination of PSI’s extensive capabilities and system solutions with Maxion’s design, fabrication, and processing capabilities will provide synergistic advantages to our customers in general IR electro-optic materials, devices, and components.”

Cole Van Nice, Maxion’s chairman of the board and partner at Chart Venture Partners (New York, NY) added, “Maxion is proud to team with PSI, a market leader in developing next generation electro-optic systems. This transaction facilitates the maturing of Maxion’s mid-infrared technologies and will propel and support PSI in becoming a global leader in QCL and ICL based solutions.”

Further terms of the acquisition have not been disclosed.

--John Wallace

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