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  • Prism Awards Highlight Photonics Innovation

Photonics Spectra
Jan 2016

SPIE Photonics West will take a break from plenary sessions, product demonstrations and research presentations for one night next month to honor the winners of the 2016 Prism Awards for Photonics Innovation. The ceremony will be held on Feb. 17 during the annual international conference and exhibition in San Francisco.

Entries come from companies around the world, focusing on areas such as imaging, biomedical instruments, industrial lasers and optical components. Retinal imaging eyewear and cinema laser projection are among new display products, while a versatile pulsed fiber laser system, toxin-free quantum dots, and lenses that turn any camera into a hyperspectral camera round out the other entries.

Winners of the 2015 Prism Awards.

Winners of the 2015 Prism Awards. Photo courtesy of SPIE.

Organized by SPIE and sponsored by Photonics Media, the international awards competition has, since 2008, recognized the best new products on the market. The event is a celebration of the industry and its many innovative companies.

The Finalists

Biomedical Instrumentation

Company: Avotec Inc. (Florida, U.S.)
Product: Real Eye Nano
The Real Eye Nano offers visual presentation and eye tracking in high-field magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) applications. The device represents an order of magnitude reduction in size from previous technology, which allows it to be positioned and operated in very confined MR head coil spaces, dramatically increasing eye-tracking performance. It works by illuminating a patient’s eyes with NIR (980 nm) light supplied by an IR LED/fused fiber cable/fiber bundle system. The reflected IR is collected by a miniature multi-element lens and imaged onto a wound bundle image guide, which is then coupled to an MR-compatible IR camera. The output of the camera is relayed over a fiber optic link to an eye-tracking computer yielding a speed of 240 Hz.

Company: Biodesy Inc. (California, U.S.)
Product: Biodesy Delta
The Biodesy Delta — comprising an optical instrument with liquid handling robotics, a custom 384-well microplate with integrated prism optics, proprietary reagents and software — is an optical system based on the Second-Harmonic Generation (SHG) nonlinear optical process. The system reveals static protein structures in motion in their native environment, as an ultrafast mode-locked Ti:S laser excites the SHG signal and detects protein conformation instantaneously. The system’s full automation enables real-time detection following ligand injection with throughput of thousands of measurements per day.

Company: Convergent Dental (Massachusetts, U.S.)
Product: Solea
The Solea CO2 laser system is designed for use on all tissue (soft, hard and osseous) and is the first computer-aided preparation system for dentistry. The laser’s 9.3-µm wavelength can be highly absorbed by hydroxyapatite, improving speed and precision for dentists. Unlike other traditional dental experiences, Solea offers “virtually soundless, painless and sensationless” procedures, and essentially replaces the drill as the primary tool for tissue procedures. This represents a major step forward as the system can execute multi-quadrant dentistry in a single appointment.

Detectors and Sensors

Company: Alakai Defense Systems Inc. (Florida, U.S.)
Product: PRIED
An eye-safe standoff Raman instrument, the PRIED sensor features reflected laser beams that can be employed in any environment, while increasing eye safety. By utilizing deep-UV Raman, PRIED overcomes disadvantages of traditional Raman technology; the device’s detection times are 1 to 10 seconds even when the operator is 10 m away, and has been shown to detect explosives in a 50-m range in less than 20 seconds.

Company: Hamamatsu Corp. (Massachusetts, U.S.)
Product: MEMS-FPI Spectrum Sensor
Suitable for embedded OEM applications, the MEMS-FPI Spectrum Sensor is a more compact and less expensive option for measuring NIR spectra than a multichannel detector and associated optics. It is composed of a miniature Fabry-Perot interferometer (FPI), which is fabricated through MEMS technology, and an InGaAs PIN photodiode. The interferometer acts as a tunable filter that scans through a range of wavelengths, and each wavelength that passes through the FPI is detected by the InGaAs PIN photodiode. Currently, the wavelength sensitivity range is 1550 to 1850 nm, but it can be extended to other wavelength ranges based on application demands.

Company: Spectral Engines (Helsinki, Finland)
Product: Wireless IR Analyzer
Inexpensive and simple, the Wireless IR Analyzer sensor is fast and stable with a resistance to shocks, vibrations and wear, thanks to a monolithic, off-plane micromechanical Fabry-Perot interferometer. And unlike conventional spectrometer schemes, it requires only a single-point detector rather than a linear array. The robust IR spectrometer system is compact with a high throughput, and is capable of covering IR ranges above 1.7 µm without any loss in performance.

Displays and Lighting

Company: Crystal IS (New York, U.S.)
Product: Optan SMD
Optan SMD is an environmental sensor that provides an increase in instrument maintanence intervals by preventing biofilm (a thin film of bacteria) from forming on surfaces. Based on native aluminum nitride (AlN) substrates, the new sensor is environmentally friendly; conventional systems have historically used copper coatings and chemicals that have been deemed toxic under newer environmental regulations. Also, the Optan SMD’s compact footprint allows for design flexibility and integration into instruments of all sizes.

Company: Necsel IP Inc. (California, U.S.),
Christie Digital (California, U.S.),
Dolby Laboratories (California, U.S.)
Product: Dolby Vision Cinema Laser Projector
The Dolby Vision Cinema Laser Projector is a collaborative effort that comprises laser sources and new laser wavelengths by Necsel that enable high-quality, six-color-based 3D and new laser integration techniques for the fiber-coupling used in the projector; a new projector architecture by Christie that utilizes Texas Instruments’ DLP cinema technology and enables >1,000,000:1 contrast; and Dolby’s high dynamic range expertise and 3D glasses that use the six primary colors. The complete system works in tandem to offer a state-of-the-art cinema experience.

Company: QD Laser Inc. (Kanagawa, Japan)
Product: Retinal Imaging Laser Eyewear
Unlike conventional smart glasses and head-mounted displays, the Retinal Imaging Laser Eyewear draws images directly onto the retina, making picture clarity independent of the user’s visual acuity and point of focus. A miniature laser projector inside the frame provides digital image information, essentially using the retina as a screen by the combination of red, green and blue laser diodes and a MEMS mirror. The device’s laser imaging has good color reproducibility, high dynamic range and a low energy profile. The augmented reality images can be seen without any focusing gap.

Imaging and Cameras

Company: First Light Imaging (Meyreuil, France)
Product: C-RED One
C-RED One is an ultra low noise, fast SWIR Camera that uses a 320 × 256-pixel e-APD (Avalanche Photo Diode) sensor with a 24-µm pixel pitch. It combines frame rates of 2000 fps and sub-electron readout noise simultaneously, with the aid of the APD detector technology made of HgCdTe photodiodes offering noiseless amplification of the signal by single electron multiplication. The majority of IR cameras on the market use InGaAs sensors, along with low cooling, but these are not sensitive after 1.5 µm and provide a readout noise that is higher than what C-RED One produces.

Company: Rochester Precision Optics (New York, U.S.)
Product: CNOD (CMOS Night Observation Device)?
The CNOD is a fully digital system offering true digital night vision sight; it is not a thermal system. It can be used as a handheld monocular, a clip-on in-line weapon sight or a stand-alone weapon sight. Currently, no image intensification night vision sight or thermal sight exists that can perform all of these functions. It can see through glass, features very low halo and external light bloom, and enables IR laser detection and full facial recognition.

Company: Stream Technologies (Edmunton, Alberta, Canada)
Product: ColorFlow Lens
Upgrading any camera to a hyperspectral camera, the ColorFlow Lens is optimized for silicon-based cameras with an approximately 4/3″ sensor. It is a C-mount assembly that physically segregates an image into 10 spectral bands without disrupting the wavefront or losing image quality. The manufacturing process allows custom spectral channels to be hardcoded into custom lenses relatively quickly, speeding users’ implementation of real solutions for their needs.

Industrial Lasers

Company: Coherent (California, U.S.)
Product: Diamond J-3 Series 5-µm CO laser
The Diamond J-3 Series 5-µm CO laser represents a new class of high-power, fully sealed, maintenance-free CO lasers. It produces over 200 W of average power with over 500 W of pulsed peak power; the laser can be focused to a less than 25-µm spot size. The CO laser’s improved glass-cutting capabilities create smartphones with better ergonomics and functionality, and for medical applications it uses less power to perform a procedure, leading to better results and shorter recovery times.

Company: LightFab (Aachen, Germany)
Product: LightFab 3D Printer
LightFab’s 3D printer combines a 1-µm focus with a rapid 3D beam steering system, a high-precision three-axis system and a powerful femtosecond laser that enables rapid production not only through additive two-photon polymerization but also selective laser-induced etching (SLE). The new 3D printer can be converted into a mass-production machine with integration of ultra high speed scanning modules and a 100-W femtosecond laser. The device allows true 3D structures in pure glasses to be created without design limitations.

Company: Onefive (Regensdorf, Switzerland)
Product: Katana–06 HP
The Katana–06 HP versatile, high power, pulsed fiber laser system is designed specifically for fluorescence microscopy, as well as industrial applications that require continuous tuning of the repetition rate. The system achieves 1 W of average power in the critical spectral range of 556 to 660 nm in pulsed operation; high power pulsed emission in this wavelength range currently cannot be achieved without complicated synchronously pumped schemes. Katana-06 HP is simple, maintenance-free, alignment-free and stable in various environment conditions.

Materials and Coatings

Company: Element Six (Luxembourg)
Product: Diamond PureOptics
Offering laser manufacturers a significantly higher benchmark for laser performance, Diamond PureOptics increases durability and through-put power by eliminating more vulnerable antireflection thin films, which are often the first to fail in extremely high power density applications such as EUV lithography. The technology leads to longer lifetimes and greater laser-induced damage thresholds, allowing users to reach new power and performance levels.

Company: Nanoco (Manchester, England)
Product: Nanoco CFQD quantum dots
Using a molecular seeding process, CFQD quantum dots are produced free of toxic heavy metals such as cadmium. The CFQD technology has been shown to definitively enhance the colors of LCD screens, and also allow manufacturers to use their own existing infrastructures to do so without changes to current production lines. A variety of applications including use in displays, lighting and bioimaging are possible with CFQD quantum dots.

Company: Shasta Crystals Inc. (California, U.S.)
Product: All-Crystalline Cladded Single Crystal Fibers
All-Crystalline Cladded Single Crystal Fibers feature a fiber laser geometry with the power advantages of bulk crystal technology. The new fibers are thinner than those created using existing crystal growth methods. The technology produces a light-guiding structure that is expected to enable the next generation of high power fiber lasers. Core diameters of 25 µm are cladded with crystalline materials, allowing single, double or triple cladding based on customer requirements. Also, the fibers are coilable and can be spooled.

Optics and Optical Components

Company: Boulder Nonlinear Systems (Colorado, U.S.)
Product: Large Aperture LCPGs
The large aperture LCPG (liquid crystal polarization gratings) beam steering systems, with clear aperture sizes of up to 10 cm, enable agile long-range lasers such as lidar and free-space laser communications. Specifically, the LCPGs are polymerized liquid crystal thin films with birefringence that varies periodically. Stacks of LCPGs and switches can achieve large deflection angles with hundreds of discrete steerable positions and sub-millisecond speeds.

Company: GLOphotonics (Limoges, France)
Product: Kagome Hollow Fiber
The Kagome Hollow Fiber, a type of photonic crystal fiber, directs light through a guidance mechanism that offers a combination of ultra broadband and ultra low loss light propagation in a hollow core. This optical fiber can transport USP laser beams with a 1-mJ energy level, with low loss and controllable dispersion, for applications including micromachinining, material micro-processing and biomedical.

Company: OZ Optics (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada)
Product: Directional Fiber Optic Power Monitors in Specialty Fiber
Directional Fiber Optic Power Monitors in Specialty Fiber allow the integration of devices inside micro-structured fibers to facilitate the adoption and implementation of increasingly complex designs. The product is produced by femtosecond laser writing of waveguides directly inside optical fibers. Along with a localized pre-modification of photonic crystal fibers, the technique can couple light from the fiber core to a cladding waveguide for a stable and reliable power tap. The power monitors can be packaged with photosensitive electronics for continuous monitoring of throughput power without any external manipulation of light.

Other Metrology Instrumentation

Company: 4D Technology (Arizona, U.S.)
Product: FlexCam Metrology Module
Employing dynamic interferometry technology, the FlexCam Metrology Module is immune to vibration, and can be deployed directly in coating chambers used to make products. The new modules can be arrayed side-by-side to allow high sampling of production films for 100 percent inspection. FlexCam modules utilize an optical design that provides extremely high vertical and lateral resolution. Its sub-nanometer vertical resolution and 2-µm lateral resolution are more than an order of magnitude better than existing inspection technologies.

Company: Neaspec (Munich)
Product: Neaspec nano-FTIR
The nano-FTIR is a scattering-type near-field spectroscopy system that allows for highly customized solutions. Development of nano-FTIR involves an ultrabroadband, mid-IR supercontinuum light source that covers the entire mid-IR wavelength region. This complete and ready-to-use solution performs IR spectroscopy with 10-nm spatial resolution that has not been possible before. The technology has paved the way for many new routine sample analysis applications and scientific measurement concepts for near-field spectroscopy.

Company: PI (Physik Instrumente) (Massachusetts, U.S.)
Product: Fast Multichannel Photonics Alignment (FMPA) Engine
The FMPA design — with sub-second speeds, multi-channel capability and fab-proven, robust modular hardware — is based on a highly specialized digital motion controller and a hybrid alignment mechanism to achieve the required coarse travel ranges without sacrificing stability, resolution or alignment speed. A broad variety of coarse/fine mechanisms can be used, enabling a spectrum of applications from undiced wafer to final package.

Scientific Lasers

Company: KMLabs (Colorado, U.S.)
Product: XUUS4
XUUS4 (eXtreme Ultraviolet Ultrafast Source) uses a gas-filled hollow fiber technique and is the only proven high harmonic generation (HHG) method for use with Coherent Diffractive Nano-Imaging. This fourth generation technology features modular cartridge design for hollow fibers, four-axis active input beam stabilization, alignment cameras for diagnostics and interlocks, temperature stabilized platform, stable industrial optomechanics, new control software, and minimal gas usage for low COO.

Company: Lasertel Inc. (Arizona, U.S.)
Product: Megawatt-Class Laser Diode Module
With high peak optical power, high average optical power and peak optical intensity, the Megawatt-Class Laser Diode Module holds a total of 1,600 edge-emitting laser diode bars with a total peak power of 800 kW and emission area of 95 cm2. Such modules are needed for a number of applications, including laser-induced fusion, material processing and directed energy.

Company: Lytid (Paris)
Product: TeraCascade
TeraCascade is a compact high frequency terahertz laser source that allows users to develop applications using terahertz waves. It is designed to transform state-of-the-art quantum cascade laser technology into a user-friendly tool for researchers that works with every terahertz detector on the market; its high output power produces real-time imaging using terahertz cameras. This high frequency terahertz laser source can deliver more than 1 mW of average power in CW mode.

For more information about the Prism Awards, visit

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