Optics Industry Report

Precision Photonics wins NIST ATP contract; Halma acquires Ocean Optics; Diffraction-limited aspheric optics enhance lidar; MORE...

Precision Photonics wins NIST ATP contract

Precision Photonics (PPC; Boulder, CO), a manufacturer of ultraprecise optics and laser-based instruments, won a $2 million grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to develop high-speed optical-frequency metrology for spectroscopy, interferometry, and optical communications. The two-year award from the NIST Advanced Technology Program (ATP) will be used to pioneer the commercial application of frequency measurements in the optical spectrum. Resulting products will be analogous to radio-frequency counters and synthesizers, which launched critical radio applications such as radar and cellular telephones. Similarly, an optical-frequency counter for rapid measurement of optical frequencies will enable new measurement applications requiring extreme accuracy and precision, including more-precise robotic stage control in semiconductor manufacturing, rapid detection, identification of trace chemicals in hospital-patient breath, and coherent optical communications.

NIST selected PPC to develop a compact femtosecond laser as an extremely precise "ruler" for measuring optical frequencies fast, achieving part-per-billion precision in just microseconds. Precision Photonics' technology is expected to facilitate rapid development of frequency-counting metrology.

Halma acquires Ocean Optics

Halma (Amersham, England), a leading safety and environmental technology group, agreed to purchase Ocean Optics (Dunedin, FL), a supplier of optical sensing and electro-optics systems. The purchase price includes an initial cash consideration of $25.0 million (£13.6 million), to be funded from Halma's existing cash resources. Ocean Optics will become part of Halma's Optics and Specialist Technology Sector.

The initial consideration assumes net assets at completion of $6.1 million (£3.3 million); any adjustment to net assets at completion will result in a dollar-for-dollar adjustment. Additional payments of up to $25 million (£13.6 million) are conditional upon business profits increasing by more than 100% between April 2004 and March 2006. Halma has received irrevocable undertakings from shareholders representing the majority of the issued share capital of Ocean Optics, and completion is subject to a shareholders' meeting. Audited accounts for the year ended December 2003 show that Ocean Optics generated profit before tax of $4.6 million (£2.5 million) on sales of $25.2 million (£13.7 million)

Diffraction-limited aspheric optics enhance lidar

Optical Surfaces (Kenley, England) has supplied the key focusing optics for a new low-cost fiber-lidar system recently launched by QinetiQ (Farnborough, England) for making local wind-speed measurements in front of wind turbines. The company says its new fiber-lidar anemometer provides remote wind speed and direction measurements up to 200 m. Apart from many meteorological and air-traffic-control applications, the lidar also provides warning of turbulence and wind-speed changes that will permit intelligent blade-pitch control.

The lens design created by Optical Surfaces comprised a 200-mm focal-length aspheric doublet with a durable V-coat to optimize performance at 1.5 µm and also to allow the lens to be cleaned. The aspheric doublet was supplied mounted and tested after coating by topographic and interferometric analysis.

Germany funds organic solar cell research

The Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) has announced the funding of a joint research project on organic solar cells by the German Hahn-Meitner-Institute (HMI; Berlin, Germany), the chemicals supplier Covion Organic Semiconductors (Frankfurt, Germany), and Aixtron (Aachen, Germany). Within this project Aixtron will install an organic-vapor phase-deposition system at the HMI for the deposition of organic thin films. First samples have achieved conversion efficiency of more than 5%; in the mid to long term it is expected that organic solar cells will achieve even higher efficiencies than Si thin-film solar cells.

Also in the news . . .

Adaptive Optics Associates (Cambridge, MA) has been awarded purchase orders from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (Livermore, CA) for design enhancements to the input sensor packages and output sensor packages used on the National Ignition Facility project. Total value of these additional purchase orders is $559,000. . . . Newport (Irvine, CA) has launched a series of high-performance achromatic lenses that deliver a per-surface reflectivity of just 0.5% throughout the visible spectrum, with a surface irregularity of l/8 or better.

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