Thorlabs and partners awarded ARPA-E contract to develop mid-IR methane-sensing lasers

Thorlabs wholly owned subsidiary Thorlabs Quantum Electronics (TQE) and Maxion Technologies in collaboration with partners from Praevium Research and Rice Universityhave been selected to participate in a $30 million program focused on reducing methane emissions associated with energy production.

Thorlabs (Newton, NJ) wholly owned subsidiary Thorlabs Quantum Electronics (TQE) and Maxion Technologies (both in MD), in collaboration with partners from Praevium Research (Santa Barbara, CA) and Professor Frank Tittel's research group at Rice University (Houston, TX) have been selected to participate in a $30 million program focused on reducing methane emissions associated with energy production.

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The MONITOR (Methane Observation Networks with Innovative Technology to Obtain Reductions) program, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), will support 11 project teams' efforts to develop low-cost, high-sensitivity systems that detect and measure methane resulting from the production and transportation of oil and natural gas.

For its part, Thorlabs and its collaborators will develop a fiber-coupled, tunable mid-infrared (mid-IR or MIR) vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser (VCSEL) source in a TO package, offering a minimum of 1 mW CW output power over its approximate 100 nm tuning range centered at 3.3 µm.

"The team we have assembled is ideal," said Peter Heim, CTO and general manager of TQE, "as we each bring different expertise to the mix: Praevium provides significant MEMS-VCSEL design and fabrication experience; Maxion has in-depth experience with Interband Cascade Laser (ICL) technology; TQE brings semiconductor laser packaging and manufacturing expertise to the effort; and Rice University provides the team with a deep understanding of the laser requirements for sensitive methane detection."

The first two years of the three-year project will be focused on the development of the TO-packaged, MEMS-tunable VCSEL laser, culminating with a successful methane sensing demonstration. The final year will be used to ramp up the full-wafer-scale manufacturing of the packaged device, which will lead to dramatic reductions in the cost presently associated with identifying and quantifying methane leaks.

"I am thrilled that Thorlabs has been chosen to participate in this important project, which builds upon our recent efforts to make MIR technologies more readily accessible," said Alex Cable, president and founder of Thorlabs. "Over the past two years, we have been steadily adding to our MIR product offering, systematically through internal efforts as well as through our recent acquisitions of Maxion, IRphotonics, and Corning's QCL business. We look forward to playing an increasing role in facilitating the important chemical, environmental, and defense research being conducted within this spectral regime."

SOURCE: Thorlabs; http://www.thorlabs.us/PressReleases.cfm?ReleaseID=82

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