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Photonics Innovators Named 2015 Prism Awards Finalists

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Justine Murphy, Editor, [email protected]

Finalists include tools for 3-D printing, water analysis and laser-engineered surfaces.

Innovative products, inventions and companies will take center stage Feb. 11, as the winners of the 2015 Prism Awards for Photonics Innovation are honored during SPIE Photonics West in San Francisco. Presented by SPIE and Photonics Media, the annual international awards competition recognizes the best innovative products that are making contributions to various segments of the photonics industry. This year’s entries range from 3-D printing technologies, system-on-chip imaging, fiber lasers and laser amplifiers, to microspectrometers, portable optical components and laser-engineered, chemical-free surfaces.

Prism Award“Once again this year, some of the very creative innovators in our dynamic field have presented the Prism Awards judges with the distinct challenge of choosing a few finalists from among a large field of impressive products,” said SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs. “These new products bring valuable new capabilities, and the wide range of applications illustrates the ubiquitous influence of photonics in our lives.” The Prism Awards provide a welcome opportunity to celebrate photonics-enabled innovation, said Laurin Publishing CEO Thomas Laurin.

“From our great vantage point – on the receiving end of daily research and product launch news – we see the endless innovation from photonics industry companies. We take pride in supporting these organizations and sharing these advances with the industry and the world,” Laurin said. “On the threshold of the International Year of Light 2015, we are once again proud to collaborate with SPIE to present the Prism Awards, and we extend our heartfelt congratulations to the 2015 finalists.”

Arthurs noted that the diversity of companies – from well-established industry leaders to university-industry startup collaborations – also illustrates the influence of photonics on the economy.

“The photonics industry, which annually accounts for around $480 billion in global revenues, serves as both a stabilizing force and as an inspirational disruptor, illuminating the path toward new markets, new revenue streams and new job creation,” he said.

Three finalists are selected in each of nine categories, with one winner chosen from each. Entries are judged by an independent panel of experts, including industry executives and venture capitalists, academic researchers and past Prism Award winners.



Company: FEMTOprint (Muzzano, Switzerland)
Product: FEMTOprint 3D Printing
The FEMTOprint SA and its 3-D printing technology can fabricate devices at the micro-nanoscale (complex shapes, cavities and channels) by codifying the desired drawing. Designed for a variety of applications, it applies an ultrafast, low-power femtosecond laser to transparent substrates such as glass, which locally modify the density in the focal point of the laser beam and increase the etching rate. This makes possible the creation of 3-D structures with features below the diffraction limit, as long as a path exists for the etchant to penetrate in the laser-affected regions.

Company: LUXeXceL (Goes, Netherlands)
Product: Printoptical technology
The 3-D Printoptical technology features a digital additive manufacturing process using specially designed printers that jet individual UV-curable material droplets. By jetting, flowing and merging before curing, the precise digital printer platforms print optical components directly from a CAD file and require no postprocessing. This technology provides high development speed, cost reductions and the possibility to customize according to applications, projects or single products. In 2013, the Printoptical technology printed the first fully functional pair of glasses, both frame and optics, in a one-print application.

Company: Multiphoton Optics (Großheubach, Germany)
Product: LithoProf3D
The LithoProf3D meets the growing need for high-speed optical interconnects (OI) at lower cost and scalable manufacturing processes for data center and telecom head end users, enabling retrofit and greenfield scenarios and allowing optics to be implemented closer to the chip. Novel and versatile packaging uses OI created in situ by a 3-D structuring technique that employs two-photon absorption polymerization initiated by femtosecond laser pulses. LithoProf3D’s component-first technology creates the OI after the assembly of optical components, which simplifies the photonic packaging process, enables passive alignment for packages using single-mode optics, lowers costs and saves energy.


Company: BacterioScan (Missouri, U.S.)
Product: Laser Microbial Growth Monitor
A low-cost method of measuring bacteria in fluids at concentrations that are below the detection limit of other such technologies, the Laser Microbial Growth Monitor (LMGM) uses narrow-angle forward scattering to detect particles in liquid specimens in the range of 0.1 to 10 µm in diameter, requires no tags or reagents, and can generate quantified bacterial growth curves with three-minute measurement resolution. It can detect changes in bacterial growth within 10 percent and has completed antibiotic resistance measurements in less than two hours, as compared to more than 30 hours for current protocols. The LMGM achieves this using a low-cost laser, detector arrays, computer hardware and precision plastic optics.

Company: Clearbridge Biophotonics (Singapore)
Product: Fourier Ptychographic Microscopy
To provide more effective diagnosis of kidney diseases and genitourinary cancers, Fourier Ptychographic Microscopy (FPM) collects 1000× more data in a single image than a standard microscope and displays information simultaneously in four different imaging modalities: bright field, phase, dark field and differential interference contrast. The resulting super-high-resolution images are made possible by a blend of phase retrieval and synthetic aperture techniques, as well as fast, multimegapixel cameras, customized LED illuminator arrays and conventional microscope optics. FPM also enables digital refocusing and automated aberration correction, which eliminates the need for expensive optics and complicated precision-focusing, and allows for inexpensive, reliable and powerful diagnosis systems.

Company: TomoWave Laboratories (Texas, U.S.)
Product: Laser Optoacoustic Imaging System
The Laser Optoacoustic Imaging System (LOIS-3D) creates high-contrast, high-volumetric, artifact-free resolution images of live biological structures by converting optical energy into acoustic waves; these propagate through tissue in a well-defined path affected only by low-level acoustic scattering and attenuation. With all the advantages of optical imaging, LOIS-3D provides high resolution in the depth of tissue, functional and molecular images, and anatomical pictures of internal tissue structures through the entire body and head of a small laboratory animal. The proprietary illumination strategy enables highly accurate quantitative information on concentrations of physiologically important molecules such as hemoglobin and oxyhemoglobin, protein receptors, drugs, diagnostic and therapeutic contrast agents, and probes.


Company: Hamamatsu (New Jersey, U.S.)
Product: C12666MA Microspectrometer
The C12666MA microspectrometer consists of a grating chip and a CMOS image sensor chip – facing each other with an air gap between – and can be integrated into equipment or connected to handheld mobile devices to perform spectral measurements such as point-of-care testing and color measurements. Its miniature components, including the slit etched into silicon and the nanoimprinted grating, allow it to be a fraction of the size of traditional microspectrometers. Additionally, the device’s hermetically sealed package makes it usable in adverse conditions.

Company: Lufft (Fellbach, Germany)
Product: MARWIS
The MARWIS mobile sensor measures important road surface conditions and detects water film height, dew point, road surface temperature, ice percentage, friction and relative humidity. Previously, these measurements were possible only through stationary systems for specific spots; MARWIS allows mobile sensing on vehicles. Weighing 1.7 kg and measuring 110 × 200 × 100 mm, the device is equipped with four LED transmitters, two receivers, a humidity sensor and a noncontact thermometer. Measurements can be monitored live in the vehicle via Bluetooth or an iPad app, and centrally at Lufft, where SmartView software collects and evaluates the data of multiple MARWIS on the road. All of this provides increased safety and control for winter road maintenance services, as well as comprehensive weather data for documentation.

Company: OndaVia (California, U.S.)
Product: OndaVia Analysis System
The OndaVia Analysis System brings water analysis from the lab to the field and improves analysis times from days to minutes. It consists of a transportable Raman spectrometer and a disposable SERS-based cartridge enabling real-time, trace-level chemical analysis of water. Designed for a variety of industries from oil and gas to chemical, environmental and agricultural, the system addresses the need for rapid, on-site chemical testing at the necessary accuracy and detection limits. OndaVia uses chemical separation technology coupled with a compact Raman spectrometer for detection.


Company: Advanced Scientific Concepts (California, U.S.)
Product: Peregrine 3-D Flash LIDAR Camera
The Peregrine 3-D Flash LIDAR camera provides output range and intensity in real time. It is a solid-state 3-D staring array lidar camera with no moving parts other than a fan. The Peregrine cameras illuminate an area of interest represented by the field of view of the lens with a short (5-10 ns) Class 1 (eye-safe) laser pulse. It measures the time of flight of the reflected laser light, generating 3-D point clouds and consisting of range and intensity data. With 128 × 32 (4096) pixels, a 4:1 aspect ratio for the single-sensor version and 256 × 32 (8192) pixels with an 8:1 aspect ratio for the dual-head version, the cameras operate up to 30 Hz. It is configured with a fixed field of view or, for the 3-mJ version, a choice of bayonet mount lens options of 60° × 15°, 45° × 11.25°, 30° × 7.5° and 15° × 3.75°.

Company: ESPROS Photonics (Sargans, Switzerland)
Product: OHC15L
The OHC15L hybrid CCD and CMOS chip technology offers back-side illumination for detection into the near-infrared range. This technology has served as the basis for several ESPROS products, including the epc660 QVGA TOF (time of flight) imager, which touts a resolution of 320 × 240 pixels.

Company: Seek Thermal, Raytheon (California, U.S.)
Product: Seek Thermal Camera
The Seek Thermal camera is a new device that brings true thermal imaging to the consumer market at an affordable price. Seek and Raytheon have collabo rated to develop a breakthrough 32,000-thermal-pixel imaging chip that is more than six times greater than competitive cameras by harnessing innovations in infrared detector designs, solid-state optical MEMS manufacturing and affordable infrared optics. The camera is a 0.5-oz device that plugs into both smartphone devices and, along with an app, allows the user to take and share thermal photos and videos, highlight everything in the scene above or below a specified temperature, select from nine different LUTs, and swipe seamlessly between regular and thermal images.


Company: Cobolt AB (Solna, Sweden)
Product: Cobolt Odin
Designed for gas sensing and environmental monitoring, the Cobolt Odin is a compact and industrially robust tunable mid-infrared source with an innovative design. Its unique features include a compact laser head that contains both the pump laser and the optical parametric oscillator, the absence of moving parts for wavelength tuning, high power efficiency and a narrow linewidth of pulsed radiation. The selected wavelength in the range of 2 to 5 µm is temperature tunable over >50 nm, giving access to important spectral frequencies of the most common hydrocarbons. The bandwidth of radiation <1.5 nm can resolve hydrocarbons down to ppb levels in photoacoustic spectroscopy applications.

Company: IPG Photonics (Massachusetts, U.S.)
Product: GLPN-500-R
The GLPN-500-R is a 500-W quasi-continuous-wave green single-mode fiber laser that brings the advantages of fiber laser technologies to the visible spectrum with high output power, excellent wall-plug efficiency and low cost. Because optical radiation is delivered via single-mode optical fiber directly to the frequency-converting crystal, the GLPN-500-R provides a unique combination of industrial-grade reliability, excellent output beam quality and flexibility of fiber delivery for many industrial manufacturing applications from copper welding to solar cell manufacturing. It also exploits the advantages of green lasers, including lower divergence, smaller focal spot and higher absorption o
f many materials, which results in more efficient laser-to-target energy coupling, as well as improvements in process efficiency and throughput.

Company: JDSU (California, U.S.)
Product: PicoBlade
The PicoBlade picosecond micro-machining laser delivers the first ultrafast solution for 24/7 industrial requirements with no kinetic components. It incorporates advanced burst capability, allowing full control of the pulse relative amplitude within a burst for better process control. The ultrashort pulses can be used for micron-scale processing, minimizing the heat-affected zone and enabling new nonablative processing methods. The system transforms smartphone and tablet production from a scribe-break-grind mechanical process to a single-step, all-laser process. Combining up to 8-MHz repetition rates with a proprietary synchronization method, the PicoBlade allows high-speed polygon scanning and will enable even higher power picosecond systems in the future.


Company: ALPhANOV (Talence, France)
Product: Laser-engineered Surfaces
The Laser-engineered Surfaces can be textured with any pattern and can take any shape or form, including 3-D, as long as there is an optical access for the laser beam to reach the surface to be processed. To meet the growing demand for chemical-free surface processing methods, lasers are being used to generate structures onto material surfaces for markets spanning medical devices, aeronautics, micromechanics and more. The innovation relies on the unique light-matter interactions attainable with ultrafast lasers. Such lasers can produce micro- and nanostructures, sometimes with high periodicity, giving the materials new properties.

Company: TelAztec (Massachusetts, U.S.)
Product: Anti-Reflection Microstructures
The Anti-Reflection Microstructures (ARMs) etched or replicated directly onto the surface of a material eliminate the need for a thin-film coating and provide unprecedented optical performance. They dramatically improve bandwidth, angular performance, laser damage threshold levels and durability. The surface textures – each with unique characteristics and optical properties that can be tailored for specific materials and applications in the UV, visible spectrum and IR – can be incorporated directly into existing manufacturing processes. The first commercial ARMs textures are designed for photovoltaics, while others in development include high-laser-damage-threshold optics, rifle scope optics, display covers and imaging optics.

Company: Inrad Optics (New Jersey, U.S.)
Product: Stilbene Scintillation Crystals
The Stilbene Scintillation Crystals can be fabricated into cylinders and other geometries. The crystals are packaged in a protective housing and coupled to a photodetector to become a neutron detection system. When grown from solution, the crystals have higher quality, and scalability to large volumes is more cost-effective. The commercial availability of stilbene will enable next-generation systems to better detect neutrons in security, scientific and industrial applications.


Company: Intel, Corning, US Conec (North Carolina, U.S.)
Product: MXC Connector
The MXC Connector meets the needs of next-generation data centers. It is a parallel optical connector designed with advanced composite, precision-molded plastics instead of metal and ceramics for lower-cost manufacturing. The MXC has fewer parts than conventional connectors and an Ultem ferrule that expands the beam from 50 to 180 µm, making more area for dust immunity. There are no expensive alignment pins. Rather, a pin and hole are molded into the ferrule, which is spring loaded, allowing for more tolerance. The connector supports up to 64 fibers, and with 25 Gb/s per fiber; cables that carry 1.6 Tb/s of data are feasible.

Company: Varioptic (Lyon, France)
Product: Visayan 80S0
The Visayan 80S0 is an optical component with continuous, variable focus and astigmatism (replacing a set of lenses) that allows sleek, portable eye-measurement devices at a lower cost than traditional phoropters. It is designed for ophthalmologists and optometrists, as well as doctors in remote areas and emerging countries. Visayan 80S0 is based on electrowetting liquid lens technology, which allows the design of variable-shape optical components with absolutely no moving parts. The eight-electrode design controls eight independent voltages around the lens diameter, enabling adjustment of the focus, tilt and astigmatism of the liquid lens. It also allows focus (sphere) control from −10 to +15 diopters, and astigmatism (cylinder) control from −6 to +6 diopters with an accuracy <0.25 diopters.

Company: Vescent Photonics (Colorado, U.S.)
Product: Steerable Electro-Evanescent Optical Refractor
The Scannable Electro-Evanescent Optical Refractor (SEEOR) is a breakthrough in beam-steering technology. It is immune to and causes no inertial effects, has true analog tuning with zoom capability, weighs less than 100 g, has low insertion loss and is affordable. The technology represents a leap forward for applications such as unmanned aerial vehicles, driverless cars and line-of-sight communications. “Eyes” for robots become a reality with SEEOR’s field of view of up to 120° × 120° without gaps and the capability to zoom to any resolution or portion of the field of view. This is possible via a planar waveguide that uses liquid crystal cladding and that tunably diffracts the light by tuning the index as the wave interacts with prism-shaped electrodes.


Company: Mahr (Göttingen, Germany)
Product: TWI 60
The TWI 60 (tilted wave interferometer) is a new approach with novel characteristics; instead of a single illumination source, many different light sources are applied, each with a different tilt of the wavefront in front of the surface under test, resulting in high accuracy and low line density. It is a flexible, fast and accurate measurement system for aspheres and free forms throughout the manufacturing process. The highly efficient and lower-cost TWI 60 measures optics without reference elements and acquires data in less than one minute without repositioning the surface under test and with a 60-mm field of view. Contact-free, with a high lateral resolution, it can also detect mid-frequent deviations caused by the polishing process in one measurement.

Company: Polytec (California, U.S.)
Product: MSA-100-3D Micro System Analyzer
The MSA-100-3D provides complete dynamic characterization of MEMS devices and other tiny mechanical structures with 3-D deflection shape data with bandwidths up to 25 MHz and picometer resolution in the time and frequency domain. It is a micro system analyzer based on the directionally resolved analysis of the Doppler frequency shift of light that is backscattered from a single laser beam impinging on a vibrating or moving object. Subpicometer amplitude resolution is achieved for both out-of-plane and in-plane motion with a 3-µm laser spot, which results in high-spatial-resolution data. Combined with up to 25-MHz bandwidth real-time data, the MSA-100-3D will open a realm of new applications for the characterization of MEMS and other micromechanical structures.

Company: WITec (Ulm, Germany)
Product: RISE Microscopy
RISE (Raman Imaging and Scanning Electron) Microscopy is a novel correlative technique that combines this confocal microscopy within one integrated microscope system for comprehensive sample characterization. Samples are first imaged in SEM mode to analyze the surface in the nanometer range; the scan stage automatically transfers the sample and repositions it for Raman imaging, which reveals the chemical and molecular components of the sample. It can also generate 2-D and 3-D images and depth profiles to visualize the distribution of the molecular compounds within a sample. RISE for the first time enables the acquisition of SEM and Raman images from the same sample area and the correlation of ultrastructural and chemical information with one microscope system.


Company: Fianium (Southampton, England)
Product: WhiteLase SC400-20
Website: Website:
The 20-W WhiteLase SC400-20 supercontinuum fiber laser provides unprecedented spectral brightness across the 400- to 2400-nm range. With the addition of a tunable filter, the laser can deliver over 100 mW of tunable (narrowband) output power at any wavelength. This innovative power scaling not only enables the move away from multiple discrete laser sources to a single, tunable supercontinuum laser, but it also costs less and is capable of both steady-state and lifetime measurements, thanks to picosecond pulses at megahertz repetition rates. The WhiteLase SC400-20 replaces multiple individual lasers with a range of different wavelengths.

Company: Northrop Grumman/Cutting Edge Optronics (Virginia, U.S.)
Product: REA254 PowerPULSE
The REA254 PowerPULSE 7.5-J diode-pumped solid-state laser amplifier features a modular and scalable design that allows engineers to select from various gain materials, a range of rod diameters and pump laser diode bar counts. In diode pumping, the quasi-continuous-wave laser diodes can be pulsed up to 1 kHz for much higher average laser output power than traditional lamp pumping. More diode light is absorbed by the laser crystal and therefore exhibits less excess waste heat and decreases thermal effects such as birefringence and lensing. Additionally, the diodes have an expected lifetime of more than 10 billion shots and can operate at repetition rates up to 40 Hz.

Company: Optonicus (Ohio, U.S.)
Product: Intelligent Fiber-Collimator Array
The first commercially available fiber-array adaptive laser beam transceiver system, the Intelligent Fiber-Collimator Array (INFA) system includes compact, lightweight photonics building blocks (fiber-array clusters) that can be used to assemble various adaptive laser beam transceiver systems, scalable in both aperture size and transmitted laser power. The system provides unique adaptive optics (AO) wavefront control capabilities by utilizing fiber-integrated LiNbO3 phase shifters and a multichannel stochastic parallel gradient descent controller. AO control of the outgoing laser beams in INFA systems is 100 times faster than in conventional laser beam projection with deformable mirrors, resulting in more efficient adaptive mitigation of environmental factors such as mechanical jitter, atmospheric turbulence, aero-optics and heat-induced effects.

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Photonics Spectra
Jan 2015
The science of measurement, particularly of lengths and angles.
camerasCCDCMOSDPSS lasersFeaturesfiber lasersmetrologyultrafast lasersBiophotonicslasersMicroscopyimagingAmericasAsia-PacificEurope2015 Prism AwardsPrism AwardsBacterioScanClearbridge BiophotonicsTomoWave Laboratoriesbiomedical instrumentationlaser microbial growth monitorFourier ptychographic microscopylaser optoacoustic imagingMissouriSingaporeTexas

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