Next Wave Optics wins U.S. patent for MEMS-based optical engine

May 18, 2009
Next Wave Optics (San Jose, CA) has received a new U.S. patent for its single MEMS imager optical engine technology. Developed by New Wave Optics' CEO George Mihalakis, the engine is designed for use with microelectromechanical systems (MEMS)-based microdisplay units. It is made up of a collection stage module, an imaging stage module, and a polarizing illumination stage module.

Next Wave Optics (San Jose, CA) has received a new U.S. patent for its single MEMS imager optical engine technology. Developed by New Wave Optics' CEO George Mihalakis, the engine is designed for use with microelectromechanical systems (MEMS)-based microdisplay units. It is made up of a collection stage module, an imaging stage module featuring polarization based imaging prism assemblage, and a polarizing illumination stage module featuring a special light integration tube that removes off-axis overfill loss.

The patent announcement notes that rear projection displays based on microdisplay devices have recently gained in popularity. One microdisplay technology involves MEMS-based arrays of movable mirrors that reflect light beams directed at them. But a display device cannot create viewable images using microdisplays alone, the patent application explains; a microdisplay device such as a MEMS imager and an optical engine are required. The patented technology addresses the fact that traditional optical engines used with MEMS imaging devices suffer from such drawbacks as poor brightness, contrast and color palette, according to the company.

The patent was announced in the latest issue of MEMS Investor Journal, which also described patent applications by two other companies for optical MEMS devices, including a MEMS-based Michelson interferometer and method of fabrication (Application Number: 20090122383; assignee: Block Engineering, LLC) and a microactuator, optical device and exposure apparatus, and device manufacturing method (Application Number: 20090122381; assignee: Nikon Corporation).

The former, Block Engineering's Michelson interferometer system, includes an optical bench and at least two mirror structures, patterned from one or more layers on the optical bench and erected to extend substantially perpendicularly to the bench to define two interferometer arms. The MEMS interferometer is implemented in a Fourier transform spectrometer, which includes a common housing containing the interferometer and a gas cell, possibly including a preconcentrator.

Nikon's system is described as comprising "a pair of support members each having a spring section in a part thereof support a mirror element, and a pair of drive mechanisms arranged respectively corresponding to a pair of the support members [that] transform the spring sections of the corresponding support members, thereby changing a distance between each of support points at which the support members support the mirror element and a base."

For more information see a description of Next Wave Optics' patented technology. See also the patent applications by Block Engineering, LLC and by Nikon Corp. For more on MEMS industry developments, see the MEMS Investor Journal site.

About the Author

Barbara Gefvert | Editor-in-Chief, BioOptics World (2008-2020)

Barbara G. Gefvert has been a science and technology editor and writer since 1987, and served as editor in chief on multiple publications, including Sensors magazine for nearly a decade.

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