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Prism Award Finalists Offer Solutions to Big Problems

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Melinda A. Rose, Senior Editor and Laura Marshall, Managing Editor

Finalists include tools for brain imaging, cancer diagnosis and more

Powerful new lasers for biological research, ways to see inside the body, and tools for spectroscopy are among the finalists for the 2013 Prism Awards for photonics innovation. The global competition recognizes new products and inventions that break with conventional ideas, solve problems and improve life through the generation and application of the essential technologies of optics and photonics; it is sponsored by Photonics Media, publisher of BioPhotonics, and SPIE.

Winners will be announced by industry leaders on Feb. 6 during SPIE Photonics West in San Francisco; presenters are being confirmed. Past presenters include Michael Mertin of Jenoptik; Robert Edmund of Edmund Optics; Mary Lou Jepsen of Pixel Qi; and Milton Chang of Incubic.

Winners of the 2012 Prism Awards for photonics innovation pose with presenters after the gala awards banquet in January 2012 at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square during SPIE Photonics West.

Since 2008, the annual Prism Awards have recognized products that provide technological solutions through the generation and harnessing of light.

“Each year, the quality of entries is higher and the competition keener,” said SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs. “The awards celebrate the wide reach of photonics as an enabling technology and the innovation power of our community.

“Photonics inventions help create valuable new jobs in communications, health care, security, manufacturing and entertainment. The National Research Council’s report Optics and Photonics: Essential Technologies for Our Nation notes that in the US, public companies focused on optics and photonics create more than $3 trillion of all public company revenues and 7.4 million of public company jobs.”

“The immense pride these companies have in their innovations and the pride they take in being named finalists in the Prism Awards are well-earned,” said Tom Laurin, CEO of Laurin Publishing, Photonics Media’s parent company. “Just as they are building on the inventions and innovations of the industry giants who came before them, they are all helping to build a strong industry for the future. And the Prism Awards are growing right along with them, becoming a highly sought-after recognition.”

The following list presents the 2013 Prism Award finalists, organized by category, with full descriptions for the biophotonics-related finalists.


Company: Femtolasers Produktions GmbH (Vienna, Austria)
Product: Integral Core

Integral Core is the first ultrafast Ti:sapphire turnkey laser to defy the idea that such lasers need to be bulky, heavy and expensive. Weighing less than 4 kg, the Integral Core is the first hand-portable Ti:sapphire laser that combines a small femtosecond light source with very short (<20 fs) laser pulses to fill the gap of a long-missing lighting tool for most femtosecond laser applications in biophotonics, such as multiphoton microscopy, OCT or terahertz imaging, or spectroscopy.

Company: Olympus America* (Massachusetts, US)
Product: Scaleview microscope objectives

Scaleview microscope objectives allow biologists to see far deeper into the brain – a densely tangled mass of millions of connections – than was ever possible before, to better map it and understand its functions. The two microscope objectives, when used with a specific reagent, enable bright imaging up to 4 mm and 8 mm deep; both are designed to boost the capability of multiphoton and confocal microscopy. The new objectives are also appropriate imaging tools for biologists who need to see entire organs, systems or embryos intact to better understand the mechanisms of development.

Company: Verisante Technology (British Columbia, Canada)
Product: Aura

Traditional skin cancer diagnosis involves a visual exam followed by an invasive, expensive and time-consuming biopsy. But Aura allows Raman-based disease detection to move to the doctor’s office for the first time. Aura images biochemical changes quickly (within 1 second) and noninvasively using a near-infrared (785-nm) laser beam. And, unlike other optical devices for skin cancer detection, Aura does not use visual characteristics to assess skin lesions – it actually scans the biochemical constituents of the skin based on molecular vibrations. Aura’s underlying technology has also shown great promise in the early detection of other cancers, including those of the lung, cervix and colon.


Company: Continuum* (California, US)
Product: Horizon OPO

The Horizon is a unique oscillator with a sophisticated cavity design and optimized optical configuration that generates an efficiency of greater than 40 percent. It also provides a narrow linewidth, excellent beam quality and an unprecedented gap-free tuning range from 192 to 2750 nm (vacuum-UV). With its wider tuning range (it uses Pellin Broca prisms rather than dichroics to facilitate interruption-free access to the entire range), the Horizon OPO opens possibilities for new applications including investigation of complex molecular structures. New direct-drive digital motors ensure linear and fine-controlled scanning and eliminate all backlash for bidirectional scanning with unmatched precision and accuracy.

Company: Femtolasers Produktions GmbH (Vienna, Austria)
Product: Femtosource rainbow CEP4

The CEP4 is a carrier-envelope (CE) phase stabilization module based on the feed-forward technique, designed as an add-on for the Femtosource rainbow line of ultrafast oscillators. Traditional CE phase stabilization uses feedback loops, resulting in a trade-off between reliability and precision. But the CEP4’s feed-forward CE phase-stabilization system, based on an invention made at the Max Born Institute group of G. Steinmeyer, provides unmatched precision with drastically improved reliability for new experiments in ultrafast science and spectroscopy. The innovative CEP4, however, uses an acousto-optic frequency shifter to “subtract” the value of the CE offset of the free-running oscillator from every single-frequency comb mode. The result is a comb with zero offset.

Company: Insight Photonic Solutions* (Colorado, US)
Product: Advanced OCT Swept Tunable Laser

The Insight takes tunable swept lasers into the all-semiconductor realm to change the future of imaging by attaining the speeds and performance required for OCT. Insight’s swept laser is entirely akinetic (no movement in the tuning mechanism), with the entire optical cavity, gain and amplification completely contained within a single tiny semiconductor chip. This results in better optical performance, higher speed, more operating control and lower cost than mechanical solutions for swept lasers, the most promising of which are based on MEMS (microelectromechanical systems) technology. Applications include medical and industrial imaging.


Company: Princeton Instruments* (New Jersey, US)
Product: IsoPlane SCT spectrograph

Through its use of proprietary optics and a novel optomechanical design, the IsoPlane SCT (Schmidt-Czerny-Turner) improves upon the traditional Czerny-Turner type spectrograph that, despite being limited by the age-old design’s inherent image aberrations, is still the most commonly used research instrument in dispersive optical spectroscopy. The IsoPlane’s novel optical design gives researchers the ability to use the full spatial extent of their detector without loss of spectral or spatial resolution, and provides the only major innovation to the design of research-grade imaging spectrographs in more than 20 years. Applications include biomedical imaging and various types of spectroscopy.

Company: Specim, Spectral Imaging Ltd. (Oulu, Finland)
Product: AisaFENIX

The AisaFENIX imager is the first commercial full-spectrum (380- to 2500-nm) push-broom hyperspectral imager that collects full VNIR and SWIR data in a single data cube with co-registered pixels. Until now, the best available full-spectrum solutions have incorporated two separate hyperspectral imagers aligned for parallel fields of view. This results in complex, bulky systems where the pixel registration between VNIR and SWIR varies with distance to the target, complicating data processing. The AisaFENIX is 75 percent smaller and less weighty (15 kg) than other imagers, fitting in turrets and UAVs. It is also suitable for a broad range of applications such as vegetation research and environmental analysis.

Company: Wasatch Photonics* (North Carolina, US)
Product: Stroker f/1.3, enabling Raman spectroscopy for low-light applications

The Stroker f/1.3 is a unique lens-based spectrograph with optics that gather 10 times more light than standard designs. That, coupled with a high-efficiency and high-dispersion volume phase holographic grating (VPHG), optimizes both optical resolution and signal level. The result is a miniature portable Raman spectrometer with performance equal to that of large research-grade benchtop spectrometers for applications such as fluorescence, optical coherence tomography, laser characterization and astronomy.


Company: AFL* (South Carolina, US)
Product: LZM-100 LAZERMaster

The LZM-100 LAZERMaster produces a clean and stable heat source via a CO2 laser to perform splicing, adiabatic tapering, lensing and other glass-shaping operations. The proprietary feedback system enables custom laser beam size, shape and power, while the proprietary software provides additional glass-shaping control and measurement. A clean, deposit-free fiber surface and consistent results are essential in high-power fiber lasers and power delivery systems, particularly in the medical, defense and industrial markets. The LZM possesses large diameter capabilities up to 2.3 mm and long tapering capabilities up to 150 mm.

Company: Heidelberg Instruments (Heidelberg, Germany)
Product: µPG501 Direct Write Lithography System

The µPG501 is a desktop maskless aligner lithography tool that can write small patterns into photoresists without using a photomask – allowing the user to go directly from design to imaging on the substrate. The current standard process is to have a photomask made and to transfer the pattern to the substrate (i.e., a silicon wafer) with the help of a mask aligner, a time-consuming and expensive process. But the µPG501 enables a direct-write lithography tool in every lab at low cost and can replace the traditional mask aligner. It is also a complementary solution to existing aligners because it can be used to fabricate photomasks. Applications include prototyping of lab-on-a-chip devices and more.

Company: Parian Technologies (Massachusetts, US)
Product: Archetto 3

The Archetto 3 is a tabletop interference lithography system that requires no vibration isolation for making nanostructures used in photonics, tissue engineering and photovoltaics. Traditional tools for electron beam lithography – the most widely used nanofabrication system – are large and can cost more than $1 million and require extensive training before use. With the compact Archetto 3, Parian Technologies has removed the barriers to nanofabrication by making use of two key enabling innovations to simplify and scale down the tool: a low-cost blue laser diode as the optical source, and a proprietary spatial filtering approach. The result is a compact, easy-to-use system that produces periodic nanostructures with a pitch as small as 230 nm for less than one-third the cost.


Company: P&P Optica (Ontario, Canada)
Product: The PPO HyperChannel

The transmission gel gratings in the PPO HyperChannel optical spectrometer deliver the highest efficiency in sorting light into individual wavelengths and have a signal-to-noise ratio of over 100,000:1. Also, up to 200 separate channels are possible, enabling applications not possible with any other system (currently, the maximum number of channels available with other multichannel spectroscopy systems is eight). The PPO HyperChannel is designed to allow for simultaneous multipoint data collection without sacrificing spectral resolution, ideal for highly dynamic fast-changing substances in applications such as the spatial monitoring of tissue oxygenation and high-speed hyperspectral imaging for explosives detection.

Thermo Scientific Portable Analytical Instruments* (formerly Ahura Scientific and Polychromix; Massachusetts, US): TruNarc, a handheld Raman analyzer for rapid spectroscopic identification of suspected narcotics.

OEwaves* (California, US): Micro-Opto-Electronic-Oscillator (µOEO), a whispering gallery mode optical microresonator.


Company: Visualant Inc. (Washington, US)
Product: ChromaID

The ChromaID tests virtually any product, material, liquid, gas, aerosol or color using spectral pattern matching (SPM) technology to record and analyze invisible chromatic identifiers in a compact, field-ready, low-cost product. Due to its multispectrum abilities and small size, the ChromaID is more cost-effective and versatile than other spectrometers. Patterns of a light-spectrum signature, from the near-UV through the visible spectrum and into the near-infrared, are collected from the structured light transmission of 36 LEDs. Pattern samples are compared to an existing database stored in the cloud, and a Bluetooth interface allows the ChromaID to communicate with smartphones for field testing. SPM technology can be used in medical and agricultural sensing applications.

Company: Leosphere (Orsay, France)
Product: R-MAN510

The R-MAN510, with its Raman and dual-polarized channels, combines the full performances of sophisticated research light detection and ranging with the compactness and low maintenance requirements of cloud ceilometers. This eye-safe, networkable instrument provides real-time detection and classification of atmospheric structures and hazards, including biomass particles, without requiring the user to have scientific expertise. The R-MAN510 emits in the UV (355 nm) with a low-energy and low-maintenance diode-pumped tripled Nd:YAG laser.

AdTech Optics*
(California, US): DFB QCL 783, a single-mode, high-power quantum cascade laser at 7.83 µm for detection of greenhouse gases.


Company: TAG Optics* (New Jersey, US)
Product: TAG Lens 2.0

The TAG Lens 2.0, developed at Princeton University, uses sound to shape light. The result is an ultrahigh-speed device that can extend the depth of field of conventional optics or provide user-specified focal lengths with submicrosecond resolution. With no moving parts, that is orders of magnitude faster than other adaptive liquid lenses. The tunable gradient index of refraction device exhibits aspherical wavefronts with low spherical aberrations for emerging applications in biomedical or industrial imaging, laser microprocessing and metrology, and is compatible with pulsed and CW light sources.

Company: Tornado Spectral Systems* (New York, US)
Product: HyperFlux VIS-NIR multimode spectrometer

The HyperFlux, a VIS-NIR multimode spectrometer, replaces a traditional slit with a proprietary High Throughput Virtual Slit to reformat the beam within a spectrometer. This allows spot size and f-ratio to be changed independently, eliminating the traditional trade-off between spectral resolution and optical throughput, and delivering high photon throughput. The HyperFlux “slices” and reformats the pupil in a new way that is optically efficient and can be made using off-the-shelf components. It dramatically improves the quality of spectra collected and greatly shortens integration times, and it can even boost the performance of a standard fiber-bundle spot-to-line converter.

TelAztec (Massachusetts, US): Anti-Reflection Microstructures (ARMs), which can be etched or replicated directly onto a surface to eliminate need for thin-film coatings.


Company: Resolution Spectra Systems (Meylan, France)
Product: Zoom Spectra

With its SWIFTS technology, the Zoom Spectra takes a principle confined to photography for more than 100 years and incorporates it into the world of optronics. The Zoom Spectra is the first high-performance spectrometer to offer access to ultrahigh spectral resolution (5 pm at 630 nm), on simultaneous bandwidths of 5 to 14 nm, with a high frame rate capability. These features make it ideal for monitoring laser emission (continuous or pulsed) and for discriminating modes or physical phenomena that conventional spectrometers do not resolve.

KMLabs* (Kapteyn-Murnane Laboratories Inc.; Colorado, US): Chromatis, an optically calibrated scanning white-light interferometer.

Linden Photonics (Massachusetts, US): Lindex Optics Cleaners, an innovative carbon nanotube-based cleaning material.


Aerotech* (Massachusetts, US): Nmark AGV galvanometer and Nmark CLS galvo controller.

IPG Photonics* (Massachusetts, US): GLR-100 continuous-wave green fiber laser with a single-mode, single-frequency ytterbium fiber laser pump source.

TeraDiode (Massachusetts, US): TeraBlade 2-kW high-brightness direct-diode laser.

Jan 2013
The scientific observation of celestial radiation that has reached the vicinity of Earth, and the interpretation of these observations to determine the characteristics of the extraterrestrial bodies and phenomena that have emitted the radiation.
hyperspectral imaging
Methods for identifying and mapping materials through spectroscopic remote sensing. Also called imaging spectroscopy; ultraspectral imaging.
The science of measurement, particularly of lengths and angles.
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