Optics Industry Report

European VC firm invests in liquid lenses; Inrad changes name to Photonic Products Group; Breault Research collaborates on scatter measurements; MORE...

European VC firm invests in liquid lenses

Sofinnova Partners (Paris, France), an international venture capital firm, has invested €2 million (US$2.3 million) in Varioptic (Lyon, France). Founded in 2002, Varioptic designs and commercializes optical lenses based on a liquid-liquid interface technology that allows various functions such as focus and zoom (see "Electrowetting is behind small and fast autofocus," p. 17). The company's miniature optical lenses are made of plastic and were first used in the smallest available digital cameras in the world, used largely in mobile telephony (mobile phones, webcams, and PDAs).

According to the company, this technology opens up new possibilities for use in video camera equipment and medicine (endoscopy). Varioptic plans to commercialize and begin volume production of its first lens products next year. The company is targeting large customers in Asia and international electronics manufacturers.

Inrad changes name to Photonic Products Group

Inrad (Northvale, NJ), a provider of custom optics, crystals, crystal components, and thin-film services, has obtained shareholder approval to change its name to Photonic Products Group and to significantly increase the number of common shares authorized. According to Dan Lehrfeld, president and CEO of Inrad, the name change to Photonic Products Group further communicates the company's intent to provide a portfolio of branded products that fit the paradigm "Products Enabling Photonics." The company's customers include corporations in the laser systems, metrology and inspection equipment, and defense, as well as the U.S. government, national laboratories, and universities.

Breault Research collaborates on scatter measurements

Breault Research Organization (BRO; Tucson, AZ) has formed a collaborative working agreement that will provide its customers with measurements and expertise from The Scatter Works (Tucson). Measurements will be made in clean-room conditions on a complete-angle scatter-instrument scatterometer from The Scatter Works. This particular instrument uses visible-light lasers under polarization control as a probe to measure surface quality, optical performance, smoothness, appearance, defects, and contamination on a wide variety of materials.

Breault provides light-management solutions that include software products, consulting services, prototyping, training, and custom software development. The Scatter Works was formed in 1995 to provide scatter measurements and consulting to the semiconductor, computer disk, and optics industries.

Free-space optics used for homeland security

The U.S. Office of Homeland Security and Public Safety has deployed the Elliptica free-space optics (FSO) system from Terabeam (Redmond, WA) at its office in New Orleans. The homeland security office is using the system as part of an effort to enhance its network in New Orleans and seven surrounding parishes to protect critical infrastructure and ensure communications during periods of heightened security threat or in the event of a natural disaster. The system carries voice, video, and data traffic at up to 100 Mbit/s.

Schott to supply photomasks to EUV

Schott Lithotec USA (Poughkeepsie, NY) signed a license agreement with the EUV consortium (Santa Clara, CA) that gives Schott access to patents in the area of extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography and the right to use the research results of the consortium. Schott will provide EUV mask blanks to EUV LLC members, and the parties will codevelop commercially viable EUV photomask blanks by 2006.

Also in the news . . .

Cree (Durham, NC) signed an agreement with OSRAM Opto Semiconductors (Regensburg, Germany) whereby OSRAM will purchase at least 500 million light-emitting diode chips over a 21-month period through June 2005. . . . The U.S. Air Force selected Rockwell Scientific (Thousand Oaks, CA) for a two-year, $5.9 million production run of special laser protective eyewear for aircrews. . . . Naked Optics (North Branch, NJ) has been formed and appointed the exclusive distributor of Pilkington Special Glass and Phoenix Optical Glass, both of St. Asaph, Wales. Buzz Nesti has been named manager of Naked Optics. . . . Zygo (Middlefield, CT) has an order from Northrop Grumman to supply custom sapphire windows for advanced infrared target-acquisition systems. Under this agreement, Zygo will deliver sapphire windows for use in the F-16 Block 60's Integrated Forward-Looking Infrared and Targeting System.

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