PhAST/LFW Award exemplifies innovation

SAN JOSE, CA—Adorned in lab coats, caps and booties, gloves, and face masks, a small crew of Laser Focus World staff and our videographer made our way into the Class 100 cleanroom at the Lundy Avenue facility of Coherent during last week’s CLEO/QELS conference to get a first-hand look (and hopefully, some informative video) of the OPSL-577–3, Coherent’s optically pumped semiconductor laser at 577 nm for the treatment of macular degeneration and the winner of the 2008 PhAS

SAN JOSE, CA—Adorned in lab coats, caps and booties, gloves, and face masks, a small crew of Laser Focus World staff and our videographer made our way into the Class 100 cleanroom at the Lundy Avenue facility of Coherent during last week’s CLEO/QELS conference to get a first-hand look (and hopefully, some informative video) of the OPSL-577–3, Coherent’s optically pumped semiconductor laser at 577 nm for the treatment of macular degeneration and the winner of the 2008 PhAST/Laser Focus World Innovation Award.

Each year, the Innovation Award judging committee looks at a number of submissions of new products and technologies, trying to identify those that clearly stand out among the others as the most “innovative.” While many products are simply improvements to existing product lines and technologies, and many more are surrounded in the industry by competitive designs that address the same application space, the truly innovative products are those with a strong patent position that uniquely address a specific application or market and make an immediate difference in the lives of researchers and everyday people.

Although Coherent’s OPSL technology is not new (it was first pioneered in 1997), Coherent’s decision to lock the wavelength of the OPSL-577–3 to 577 nm, the peak of absorption for oxygenated hemoglobin, is new. The 3W yellow output selectively targets small blood vessels in the retina that rupture periodically for patients that have age-related macular degeneration. By sealing the leaking vessels without damaging peripheral tissue (a process called photocoagulation), it is hoped that the new laser can improve the lives of some 250,000 people in the U.S. alone that are afflicted with this form of age-related blindness. And because the success of such a laser depends on it being ultra-reliable in a clinical setting, Coherent is using a series of time-tested cleanroom assembly practices and diligent burn-in cycles to insure that its OPSL-577–3 will not disappoint.

Honorable Mentions

The judging committee also selected five companies for Innovation Award Honorable Mentions. Among the winners was Amplitude Systemes (Pessac, France) for its Tangerine 20 W diode-pumped ultrafast fiber amplifier. While the Tangerine has many competitors in the ultrafast micro- and nano-machining, nonlinear optics, nanophotonics, and life science industries, it uniquely delivers high pulse power in a package far smaller than you would expect for the power it delivers.

The most unusual product to receive honorable mention this year was ColdQuanta’s (Boulder, CO) RuBECi ultracold matter cell for the production of Bose-Einstein condensates (BECs). The stuff of science fiction, the ultracold matter cell is an impressively compact system for use in frequency standards, clocks, and inertial sensing applications, and doesn’t require the services of several PhD-level scientists to operate.

Two honorable mention recipients in the optics field were Edmund Optics (Barrington, NJ) for its TECHSPEC low-cost, color-corrected aspheres and Holochip (Albuquerque, NM) for its APL-1050 adaptive polymer lens. Edmund took what is normally an all-glass and expensive-to-produce asphere and replaced it with a lower-cost molded polymer aspheric surface bonded to a standard achromatic doublet for simultaneous reduction of spherical and chromatic aberration. And in keeping with the spirit of innovation, Holochip created an adaptive polymer lens that takes the place of boxes of fixed-focal-length lenses, speeding prototyping for researchers.

Now in its third year, The PhAST/Laser Focus World Innovation Award is sponsored by Laser Focus World magazine and PhAST. Please go to www.phastconference.org/innovation/ for details and start planning your submissions for 2009!
—Gail Overton

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