Laser Industry Report

NIF laser produces record ultraviolet beam; Novalux switches gears, gains $16 million in funding; Schwartz Electro-Optics files for Chapter 11; MORE...

Jul 1st, 2003

NIF laser produces record ultraviolet beam

The National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL; Livermore, CA) recently produced 10,400 J, or 10.4 kJ, of ultraviolet laser light in a single laser beamline, setting a world record for laser performance. Prior to this, NIF laser scientists also have used the first four NIF beamlines to set records for infrared and green single beam laser energies with 21 and 11 kJ of energy delivered, respectively. The NIF laser system has now demonstrated ultraviolet laser energy equivalent to 2 million J in 192 beams. This "full NIF equivalent" performance exceeds the design requirement of 1.8 MJ specified for NIF. Completion of the full system is now expected in 2008. Initially, NIF was due to be finished this year. The final cost of the project is now expected to be $3 billion, more than double the original budget.

Novalux switches gears, gains $16 million in funding

Just a few months after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, Novalux (Sunnyvale, CA) is back in business. The company has secured $16 million in venture-capital funding to continue developing and manufacturing a visible-laser version of its laser technology platform, NECSEL (Novalux extended-cavity surface-emitting laser), and is now marketing and delivering products based on this technology for a number of nontelecom applications.

The latest round of financing was led by a consortium of three previous Novalux investors: Crescendo Ventures, Dynafund Ventures, and Morgan Stanley Venture Partners. Funds solicited by the consortium were used to form a new corporation called Novalux Acquisition (NAC), which purchased the assets of Novalux in May. The group also provided interim financing to allow Novalux to continue operations after the company filed for Chapter 11 reorganization in March.

According to Jeffrey Cannon, president and CEO, while Novalux scaled back to a skeletal crew during the seven-week reorganization process, the company never shut down. Instead, they continued refocusing their business and products on applications outside of telecom. Novalux is now marketing a family of intracavity frequency-doubled lasers called Protera that provide 5 and 15 mW of 488-nm power, offering a solid-state alternative to air-cooled argon lasers. According to Cannon, Novalux has shipped more than 50 units into the bioanalytical instruments market since last December and is now working on 460-, 530-, and 635-nm versions of this technology.

Schwartz Electro-Optics files for Chapter 11

According to a report in the May 23 Orlando Sentinel, Schwartz Electro-Optics (SEO; Orlando, FL) has filed for bankruptcy protection from creditors and plans to sell its military-contracting operation, which represents about 80% of its business. Earlier this year the company sold its diode-laser business, Applied Optronics (South Plainfield, NJ), to medical-laser manufacturer Candela (Wayland, MA). According to the Orlando Sentinel, SEO hopes to emerge from bankruptcy within three months with about 25 employees, down from around 200 workers in late 2001. The company was founded in 1984 by Bill Schwartz, a former Martin Marietta engineer who was a pioneer in the laser and optics industry. Schwartz ran the business until his death in 2000.

SpectRx applies interstitial technology to alcohol abuse

SpectRx (Norcross, GA), Boston University School of Public Health, and Childrens Hospital Los Angeles have been awarded a two-year, $1.5 million contract from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) to develop a laser-based device to continuously monitor alcohol in the human body. SpectRx will coordinate the development program, which will use the company's interstitial fluid-testing technology. The device is being designed to continuously monitor the presence and level of alcohol in the body and to detect for alcohol abuse in critical job functions, such as airline pilots, or for use in the criminal justice system.

Also in the news . . .

IPG Photonics (Oxford, MA) says its commercial-grade Ytterbium fiber laser achieved 300 W of low-noise, single-mode output power (1.08 µm), a new record. This breakthrough increases by 50% the single-mode output from IPG's existing line of production fiber lasers. . . . The Optical Internetworking Forum has approved a multisource tunable-laser implementation agreement that addresses module physical interface, communications interfaces, and optical performance parameters for continuous wavelength tunable laser modules.

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