News Briefs

SBIR contract

NP Photonics (Tucson, AZ), a supplier of optical components and modules for the sensing, military, industrial, and R&D markets, has been awarded a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) contract by the Air Force Research Laboratories at Kirkland Air Force Base. Worth $750,000 over the next two years, the SBIR contract will allow NP Photonics to further develop its compact Panoramic Optical Power Amplifier for two-dimensional image amplification. The amplifier is based on NP’s high-gain-per-unit-length Yb-doped phosphate glass and fiber technology. Multiple active cores in one optical fiber are energized collectively by semiconductor pump diodes and are used to amplify the pixels of an image or array. In Phase II, NP Photonics will continue development by increasing pixel count for enhanced spatial resolution. Operational prototypes will be evaluated in collaboration with the Air Force as low noise image amplifiers in acquisition, tracking, and pointing systems.

Air Force contract

The U.S. Air Force is providing a $3.5 million contract to Southampton Photonics (Los Gatos, CA) to develop a fiber-laser weapon system that can be carried onto the battlefield to do such things as detonate land mines, pinpoint targets, and even shoot down incoming missiles. The contract could be worth $25 million if the project proves successful. Southampton Photonics says it has developed a 2-kW prototype and hopes to have one ready for field testing by 2007.

ESA contract

Thales Laser Diodes (TLD; Orsay, France) has been awarded a €2 million (US $2.6 million) contract for the AEOLUS program of the European Space Agency (ESA). TLD has been qualified for the production of the laser diode stacks and for the specific test programme over about 18 months. According to the company, deliveries of the first stacks have been completed with success.

Spectroscopy partners

Polychromix (Wilmington, MA) and Ocean Optics (Dunedin, FL) signed a worldwide distribution agreement to market cost-effective spectroscopy solutions for general-purpose applications. The partnership allows Ocean Optics to add to its spectroscopy portfolio by distributing Polychromix’s near-infrared (NIR) Digital Transform Spectrometer (DTS) product family. Polychromix’s DTS technology uses a MEMS spatial light modulator in a portable form factor, featuring a single InGaAs detector and no moving parts. In addition, the devices feature low power consumption, utilizing a standard USB connection for both communications and power interfaces. Ocean Optics will distribute the DTS product family, consisting of three spectrometer versions: the DTS-1700 covering the 900-1700 nm range, the DTS-2500 covering the 1700-2500 nm NIR range and the DTS-NB high-resolution version for specific high-resolution applications.

Nanowire patent

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued U.S. Patent #6,882,051, “Nanowires, nanostructures and devices fabricated therefrom,” to Nanosys (Palo Alto, CA). This patent, exclusively licensed from the Regents of the University of California, covers fundamental compositions of matter and methods for creating novel nanowire heterostructures in which the composition changes longitudinally along a wire’s length and/or coaxially about its width. This technology covers a broad variety of devices including field-effect transistors, light-emitting devices including LEDs and nanolasers, solar cells, thermoelectric devices, optical detectors, and chemical and biological sensors.

New CEO

Leslie Polgar has joined CRLO Displays (Dalgety Bay, Scotland) as its CEO. Previously, Polgar was the founding president of Eastman Kodak’s Display Products business. At Kodak, Polgar led the successful commercialization of the world’s first consumer market active matrix organic light emitting diode display. CRLO Displays was formed in September 2004 by European investors Amadeus Capital and Doughty Hanson Technology Ventures with $19 million in new funding. The company’s ferroelectric liquid-crystal-on silicon technology is currently in use for simulation and training systems.

Nanofabrication patent

Nanogen (San Diego, CA) has been issued European Patent #0943158B1, “Affinity Based Self-Assembly Systems and Devices for Photonic and Electronic Applications,” by the European Patent Office. The European patent is jointly owned by Nanotronics, a wholly owned subsidiary of Nanogen, and the Regents of the University of California. Nanogen has exclusively licensed the interests of the University of California where there is joint inventorship.

This new patent is similar to U.S. Patent 6,652,808, the parent of a series of patent applications that was issued in December 2003. It relates to a nanofabrication technology that combines an electric field assisted manufacturing platform and programmable self-assembling nanostructures (for example, DNA building blocks) for the fabrication of a wide range of unique higher-order nano and microscale, devices, structures and materials. The nanofabrication platform and process would be used for: producing nanoscale electronic and photonic devices and structures; assembly of nanostructures and submicron components onto silicon wafers and other materials; integration of nanostructures within preformed microelectronic and optoelectronic structures; production of nanoparticles; and fabrication of selectively addressable DNA nanoarray substrates and materials.

OLED development

A new U.S. Display Consortium (USDC; San Jose, CA) R&D contract awarded to Dow Corning (Midland, MI) will focus on developing novel hole injection materials for production of higher efficiency organic light emitting diode devices (OLED) suitable for high-definition displays. The USDC and Dow Corning will equally share the $2.39 million development cost.

Managing director

Gary Bishop has been named managing director of LINOS Photonics (Milford, MA), the US subsidiary of LINOS (Göttingen, Germany). The group management intends to strengthen sales in the US market by appointing an experienced photonics expert. Bishop brings to LINOS more than 20 years of experience in the development and business management of products and businesses in both the photonics and software industries.

North American distributor

Spectra Couleur GmbH (Berlin, Germany), a supplier of visible upconversion fiber laser systems for OEM, life science, and research applications, has appointed Market Tech (Scotts Valley, CA) as its exclusive distributor in North America for all laser products. Spectra Couleur was founded in December 2002 as spin-off from the Technical University of Berlin to design and manufacture visible upconversion fiber lasers for OEM-use in life science, imaging, and sensor applications.

Laser weapons

General Atomics (San Diego, CA) selected Lockheed Martin as the weapon system integrator for the High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System (HELLADS). General Atomics’ Photonics Division is under contract to the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to develop and demonstrate the lightweight, solid-state laser weapon system. DARPA’s HELLADS initiative will investigate and validate a new laser design that enables a laser weapon system to achieve an order of magnitude reduction in weight with respect to other high-energy laser system concepts.

Vision acquisition

Cognex (Natick, MA), a supplier of machine-vision systems, has acquired DVT Corporation (Duluth, GA), a privately held vision-sensor company. Cognex purchased all of the outstanding shares of DVT for approximately $115 million, consisting of a cash payment of $104 million made at the closing and a final payment of up to an additional $11 million in cash to be paid at the end of a one-year escrow period. The acquisition was completed on May 9.

According to the companies, DVT Corporation provides low-cost, easy-to-use vision sensors, which it sells primarily to the fast-growing factory-floor segment of the machine-vision business. DVT’s principal product, Legend, is used by a large number of customers in a wide variety of industries for applications such as inspection and quality control.

Next-generation communication

Universal Display Corporation (Ewing, NJ) has been awarded a two-year, $1.7 million Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase III contract by the U.S. Department of Defense to continue its development of flexible OLED display technology for a next-generation military communications device. In this contract, Universal Display is to develop and deliver functional prototypes of a portable flexible communication display device that will be form-fitted to a soldier’s wrist and communicate wirelessly to a nearby computer, thereby enabling soldiers to see crucial video and graphics information in real time. The device will use a full-color, active-matrix OLED display built on metal foil.

Four-color IR camera

A collaboration between NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) and IQE claims to have produced the world’s first four-band infrared camera. Based on quantum-well infrared photodetector technology, the camera is suitable for applications including weather prediction and remote sensing of pollution, such as the detection of nitrous oxide in smog. It has already been used as part of an international project investigating the environmental impact of vegetation burning and related ecological effects in Africa.

The camera’s four QWIP channels allow detection of radiation at wavelengths of 3-5 µm, 8-10 µm, 10-12 µm and 13.5-15.5 µm, and combine to give a pixel resolution of 640 by 512. The detector will also be used to form the basis of a hyperspectral infrared camera, which may comprise more than 64 wavelength bands.

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