Optics Industry Report

Sept. 1, 2004
DARPA gives Caltech $8 million for optofluidics; Photonics at heart of new NASA missions; Schott discontinues glass operations in West Virginia; MORE...

DARPA gives Caltech $8 million for optofluidics

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has awarded an $8 million, four-year, basic-research program grant to the California Institute of Technology (Pasadena, CA) to initiate research in photonics technologies. The technical focus of the effort will be on optofluidics, a new research area based on the use of microfluidic devices to control optical processes. To conduct the research, Caltech is establishing a new center called the Center for Optofluidic Integration. The center will spearhead efforts directed toward a new class of adaptive optical devices for applications in sensing, switching, and communications.

"The basic idea of the center is to build optical devices for imaging, fiberoptics, communications, and other applications, and to transcend the limitations of optical devices made out of traditional materials like glass," said founding director Demetri Psaltis. "Our idea is to use fluidics as a means of modifying optics." Researchers at the center will integrate advances in microfluidics, soft lithography, and nanophotonics to develop components that use nanometer-sized fluidic pathways to mix and pump liquids into and out of the optical path.

Photonics at heart of new NASA missions

NASA has selected nine new optical imaging studies, including one from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (Pasadena, CA), to enhance its Astronomical Search for Origins Program. Some of the new mission ideas will survey one billion stars within our galaxy; measure the distribution of galaxies in the distant universe; study dust and gas between galaxies; study organic compounds in space and investigate their role in planetary system formation; and create an optical ultraviolet telescope to replace NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. The selected proposals and their principal investigators include: a background-limited infrared submillimeter spectrograph for Spica; revealing the nature of the far-infrared universe, JPL; the space infraredinterferometric telescope, Goddard Space Flight Center (Greenbelt, MD); the cosmic inflationprobe, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (Cambridge, MA), which will measure the shape of cosmic inflation potential by conducting a space-based, near-infrared, large-area redshift survey capable of detecting galaxies that formed early in the history of the universe; high-orbit ultraviolet-visible satellite, Arizona State University (Tempe, AZ); and the astrobiology space infrared explorer mission, Ames Research Center (Moffett Field, CA).

Schott discontinues glass operations in West Virginia

Schott (Elmsford, NY) has closed down its operations at Schott Scientific Glass (Parkersburg, WV). The first melting tank was shut down on July 22, the second tank was shut down on Aug. 12, and the facility ceased all operations except for cleaning at the end of August. Schott Scientific Glass, with 190 employees, produced borosilicate glass tubing for pharmaceutical packaging and industrial applications. Customers will be supplied from Schott production in Germany, Brazil, and Spain. Marketing, sales, and logistics for Schott's North American tubing business will remain in Elmsford.

Zygo to supply optics fabrication equipment for NIF

Zygo (Middlefield, CT) has received an order from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (Livermore, CA) to develop improved manufacturing technologies and pilot plant equipment required for fabricating thin fused silica optics for the National Ignition Facility (NIF) laser, including diffractive optic plates and debris shields. Diffractive optic plates are used to help characterize the power and energy of the laser beam, and debris shields are used to protect the 192 final focus lenses from target-chamber debris and contamination.

"To preclude damage from NIF's powerful laser beam, thin-fused silica optics located in the final optics assembly must have fabricated surfaces that are essentially flawless," said Sol Laufer, Zygo vice president of optics. "This requires the development of new and improved fabrication and testing techniques and equipment to accomplish thin fused silica optics fabrication cost-effectively."

Also in the news . . .

e2v Technologies (Chelmsford, England) has been awarded a contract to supply 36 image sensors to the Chinese LAMOST (Large sky-Area Multi-Object Spectroscopic Telescope) project. . . . Precision Optics (Gardner, MA) raised $5.3 million in a stock offering of 5.256 million shares. The company intends to use the net proceeds of the rights offering to expand its line of medical and industrial endoscopic products, to develop instruments for single-molecule and nanotechnology applications, and for general corporate purposes.

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