Novawave transitions from R&D to commercial operations

REDWOOD CITY, CA- Launched in 2002 with a mission of creating optically based instruments for chemical sensing, Novawave Technologies was operating “beneath the radar” until its first trade show exhibit at Photonics West in San Jose, CA earlier this year.

REDWOOD CITY, CA- Launched in 2002 with a mission of creating optically based instruments for chemical sensing, Novawave Technologies was operating “beneath the radar” until its first trade show exhibit at Photonics West in San Jose, CA earlier this year. The company is launching products and technology into a potentially wide range of application areas as it transitions from R&D to commercial operations.

Some of the primary enabling technologies developed at Novawave appeared late last year in the company’s initial product launch-a difference frequency generation (DFG)-based, tunable, mid-infrared (IR) laser source that operates at room temperature and provides output power ranging from 150 µW up to mW levels. Dubbed IRIS 1000 and focused initially on rapidly growing markets in greenhouse-gas sensing and homeland security, the source provides a turnkey and relatively low-cost stream of high-purity single-longitudinal and transverse-mode laser light in the 3.2-3.5 micron mid-IR region, with external modulation capability for spectroscopic applications. This spectral region has traditionally been accessible with either cryogenic lead-salt diode lasers or complex and expensive OPO-based systems. It is also not currently accessible with emerging quantum cascade (QC) laser devices, according to James Scherer, president and CEO at Novawave.

What the engineers at Novawave accomplished was to extend the advances of the telecom era from the near-IR region (at which they were initially targeted) into the mid-IR region, enabling much higher power output than existing source technologies for a variety of applications not limited to chemical sensing. Based on this, the company is introducing an SFL-PM family of single frequency fiber lasers with polarization maintaining architectures that provide output powers as high as 2 W. These systems do provide output in the 1.06 and 1.55 micron near-IR regions, and are intended to compete directly but at lower cost with distributed feedback (DFB) fiber laser technology that is limited to about 200 mW output power, Scherer said. Potential applications include remote sensing, coherent LIDAR, chemical sensing, and seed sources for higher-power fiber lasers.

Technologies and products developed at Novawave are not limited to sources, but also include polarization-maintaining fiber-optic components, high-reflectivity optics for cavity ringdown spectroscopy, as well as systems based on these technologies. The startup company is not venture capital based, Scherer said, but was “organically grown” with help from federal grant money that was awarded for developments in nonlinear frequency conversion and fiber technology.
-Hassaun A. Jones-Bey

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