Optics Industry Report

The Hale Telescope on Palomar Mountain (San Diego, CA), which has been gathering light from the depths of the universe for 55 years, finally sent some back in early December, as a team of astronomers from the California Institute of Technology, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the University of Chicago created an artificial star by propagating a 4-W laser beam from the telescope up into the night sky.

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Adaptive optics take Hale Telescope further into space

The Hale Telescope on Palomar Mountain (San Diego, CA), which has been gathering light from the depths of the universe for 55 years, finally sent some back in early December, as a team of astronomers from the California Institute of Technology, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and the University of Chicago created an artificial star by propagating a 4-W laser beam from the telescope up into the night sky.

The Palomar Observatory uses the world’s fastest astronomical adaptive optics system on its 200-in. Hale Telescope. It is able to correct for changes in the atmosphere 2000 times per second. Astronomers from Caltech, JPL, and Cornell University have exploited this system to discover brown dwarf companions to stars, study the weather on a moon of Saturn, and see the shapes of asteroids.

‘’This a terrific technical achievement which not only opens up a bold and exciting scientific future for the venerable 200-in telescope but also demonstrates the next step on a path toward future large telescopes such as the Thirty Meter Telescope,” said Richard Ellis, Steele Family Professor of Astronomy and director of the Caltech Optical Observatories.

Currently in the design phase, the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) will eventually deliver images at visible and infrared wavelengths 12 times sharper than those of the Hubble Space Telescope. The TMT project is a collaboration between Caltech and the Associated Universities for Research in Astronomy, the Association of Canadian Universities for Research in Astronomy, and the University of California.

Molecular Imprints licenses MIT technology

Molecular Imprints (MII; Austin, TX) has completed an exclusive licensing agreement with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA) for use of the university’s moiré fringe alignment technology in MII’s nanoimprint ­lithography tools. MII anticipates ­using this technology as a primary ­vehicle for high resolution alignment in advanced lithography applications. MII’s CTO, S. V. ­Sreenivasan, and his team have demonstrated 7‑nm, 3‑­sigma alignment on an MII tool with this technique. Hank Smith from MIT led the effort to develop this technology and will be part of the ­ongoing development efforts.

LCD glass sales weaken

Speaking at the Credit Suisse First Boston Technology Conference in Scottsdale, AZ, in December, James Flaws, vice chairman and CFO of Corning (Corning, NY), told analysts that while the company’s fourth-quarter guidance was still $950 million to $1 billion in revenues, its shipments of liquid crystal display (LCD) glass in Taiwan weakened in November. He also said Corning expects to finish 2004 with LCD volume up 65% compared to the prior year.

“We now believe our fourth quarter sequential LCD volume growth will be up 3% at best and could be flat with the previous quarter,” he said. “This weakness in Taiwan is not uniform among customers, and we are reallocating some glass to other customers. However, the lower fourth-quarter volume does indicate that we are no longer sold out of manufacturing capacity. Shipments of LCD glass at our equity venture, Samsung Corning Precision Glass Co. Ltd. in Korea, continue to be strong, with expected sequential volume growth in the low teens.”

Also in the news . . .

Brillian (Tempe, AZ), former subsidiary of Three-Five Systems, signed a distribution agreement with Holoeye Photonics (Berlin, Germany) for the sale of its Gen II liquid-crystal-on-silicon microdisplay products and components in North America and Europe. Holoeye, which makes diffractive optical elements for industrial and media applications, will begin distributing Brillian’s microdisplays in key specialty markets, including medical, military, commercial and industrial applications. . . . Heptagon (Zurich, Switzerland), a developer of refractive and diffractive micro-optical elements and subsystems, appointed a new CEO, Chuck Milligan. Milligan was previously vice president of industrial and defense solutions at Bookham. . . . Corning (Corning, NY) and Hitachi-Maxell (Tokyo, Japan) entered into a nonexclusive licensing agreement that allows the company to utilize Corning’s precision-molded optics patents in the manufacture of aspheric glass lenses, such as those used in digital still cameras and other electronic products. Details of this agreement were not disclosed. The Crystal Consortium (Glasgow, Scotland) won a £20,000 (US$39,000) award from the Scottish government to develop array elements based on piezoelectric single crystals. These elements, designed to be used in mid-frequency sonar for underwater obstacle detection, will show the benefits of single crystal arrays over the traditional ceramic arrays.

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