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Prism Awards Finalists Offer Solutions to Big Problems

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

Finalists from Europe include tools for pollution monitoring, manufacturing, brain imaging and more.

Sensors for monitoring environmental toxins and detecting explosives, powerful new lasers for biophotonics, and tools for lithography and spectroscopy are among Europe’s finalists for the 2013 Prism Awards for Photonics Innovation, a global competition recognizing 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. The Prism Awards are sponsored by Photonics Media, the publisher of EuroPhotonics, 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 have included Michael Mertin, Jenoptik; Robert Edmund, Edmund Optics; Mary Lou Jepsen, Pixel Qi; and Milton Chang, Incubic.

Since 2008, the annual Prism Awards have recognized photonic products that break with conventional ideas, solve problems and improve life 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 is well earned,” said Laurin Publishing CEO Tom Laurin. “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.”

2013 Prism Awards Finalists

Detectors, Sensing, Imaging and Cameras

Company: Specim, Spectral Imaging Ltd. (Oulu, Finland)
Product: AisaFENIX full spectrum hyperspectral imager

Until now, the best full-spectrum solutions available have incorporated two separate hyperspectral imagers aligned for parallel fields of view, resulting in complex, bulky systems with pixel registration between VNIR and SWIR varying with distance to the target, and this complicates data processing. The AisaFENIX imager’s design makes it 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.

This product images the target through a single front objective and single input slit, keeping all wavebands spatially co-registered independent of the distance to the target. It is rugged and 75 percent smaller – and, at 15 kg, less weighty – than other imagers, so it fits in turrets and unmanned aerial vehicles. It is also suitable for a broad range of industrial and research applications requiring full-spectrum information, such as mineral mapping, vegetation research, environmental analysis and detection of improvised explosive devices.

Other finalists in Detectors, Sensing, Imaging and Cameras

• Princeton Instruments* (New Jersey, US): IsoPlane SCT spectrograph, a research-grade imaging spectrograph.

• Wasatch Photonics* (North Carolina, US): Stroker f/1.3, enabling Raman spectroscopy in such low-light applications as online and industrial settings.

Life Sciences and Biophotonics

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

Integral Core is the first ultrafast Ti:sapphire turnkey laser to defy the idea that sub-8-fs lasers need to be bulky, heavy and expensive. Weighing less than 4 kg, it 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, optical coherence tomography, and terahertz imaging or spectroscopy. By delivering ultrashort optical pulses, the Integral Core provides the same pulse peak intensity as bulky high-power 100-fs lasers, thanks to recent improvements in the quality and robustness of dispersive mirrors.

Other finalists in Life Sciences and Biophotonics

• Olympus America* (Massachusetts, US): Scaleview microscope objectives, which see deeper into the brain than ever before.

• Verisante Technology (British Columbia, Canada): Aura, which performs multimodal imaging for skin cancer detection.


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 the use of a photomask. 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.

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. The µPG501 was designed for R&D and small laboratory environments that otherwise would have to depend on external photomask suppliers or costly equipment. It has proved suitable for exposure on thick negative SU8 photoresists as well as standard positive photoresists.

Other finalists in Manufacturing

• AFL* (South Carolina, US): LZM-100 LAZERMaster, a CO2 laser system for splicing and shaping glass.

• Parian Technologies (Massachusetts, US): Archetto 3, an exponentially less expensive tool for nanolithography.

Scientific Lasers

Company: Femtolasers Produktions GmbH (Vienna)
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 by G. Steinmeyer’s group at Max Born Institute, provides unmatched precision with drastically improved reliability for new experiments in ultrafast science and spectroscopy. The innovative CEP4 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.

Combining the novel approach with Femtolasers technology such as difference frequency generation interferometers enables record-low residual CE phase noise values (<30 mrad, 20 s, 500 kHz) to be maintained over more than one working day.

Other finalists in Scientific Lasers

• Continuum* (California, US): Horizon OPO, a full-spectrum spectroscopy research tool.

• Insight Photonic Solutions* (Colorado, US): Advanced OCT Swept Tunable Laser, a low-cost tunable laser.

Test, Measurement, Metrology

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

The Zoom Spectra is a breakthrough compact spectrometer offering access to ultrahigh spectral resolution on a simultaneous bandwidth of a few nanometers, with high frame rate capability.

Two major trends have emerged in spectroscopy: greater simplicity and better performance for a rapidly increasing number of new applications. Zoom Spectra is the first product using stationary-wave integrated Fourier transform spectrometry (SWIFTS), a new approach to spectroscopy. It is based on a combination of imaging sensors, optics, nanotechnologies and specific algorithms and is integrated into a single component with no moving parts.

This system simultaneously offers high spectral resolution, high frame rate, long-lasting factory calibration and, at 8 x 8 x 12 cm, compact size. It was designed to monitor laser emission (continuous or pulsed) and to discriminate modes or physical phenomena that conventional spectrometers do not resolve.

Other finalists in Test, Measurement, Metrology

• KMLabs* (Kapteyn-Murnane Laboratories Inc.; Colorado, US): Chromatis, broadband dispersion characterization for optics and coatings.

• Linden Photonics (Massachusetts, US): Lindex Optics Cleaners, cleaning media for fiber optics.

Green Photonics

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

Many particle threats come from the atmosphere. Detecting them is essential to limiting their impact on climate, human health and activities. Consider the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruptions in Iceland in 2010, which disrupted air traffic across Europe, leading to lost revenues of about $200 million a day. And the volcanic ash dramatically affected agriculture and people. An aerosol profiler is vital for managing atmospheric threats, but there are few ground-based measurements for this application.

The R-MAN510 combines lidars (nitrogen Raman and dual-polarization channels, with accurate aerosol measurement above the boundary layer) and cloud ceilometers. It is the only automatic, networkable, compact and eye-safe instrument on the market that can unambiguously classify aerosols. Without the need for scientific expertise, it provides ready-to-use information for aerosol characterization.

Thanks to its newly developed algorithm, it offers information on atmospheric structures (heights of planetary boundary layer, cloud and aerosol layers) and calibrated optical parameters of aerosol layers such as extinction, backscatter and optical depth (i.e., visibility).

Other finalists in Green Photonics

• AdTech Optics* (California, US): DFB QCL 783, a tool for air pollution and emissions monitoring.

• Javelin (a Visualant Inc. licensee; Washington, US): ChromaID, which offers environmental toxin and food-safety testing.

Defense and Security

• OEwaves* (California, US): Micro-Opto-Electronic-Oscillator (µOEO), which provides information systems on unmanned aerial vehicles and other platforms.

• P&P Optica (Ontario, Canada): The PPO HyperChannel, which offers high-resolution detection of explosives.

• Thermo Scientific Portable Analytical Instruments* (formerly Ahura Scientific and Polychromix; Massachusetts, US): TruNarc, a handheld system for rapid narcotics identification.

Industrial Lasers

• Aerotech* (Massachusetts, US): Nmark AGV and Nmark CLS, versatile lasers for scanner-based applications.

• IPG Photonics* (Massachusetts, US): GLR-100, a single-mode CW green laser for materials processing, manufacturing and more.

• TeraDiode (Massachusetts, US): TeraBlade 2-kW high-brightness direct-diode laser, a tool for industrial metal cutting and welding.

Optics and Optical Components

• TAG Optics* (New Jersey, US): TAG Lens 2.0, which uses ultrahigh-speed acoustics to increase depth of field.

• TelAztec (Massachusetts, US): Anti-Reflection Microstructures (ARMs), which suppress reflection for solar modules, displays and finished optics.

• Tornado Spectral Systems* (New York, US): HyperFlux VIS-NIR multimode spectrometer, a high-spectral-resolution instrument with order-of-magnitude higher photon flux.

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.

See the finalists in person

Many Prism Awards finalists will exhibit in the Photonics West exhibition (Feb. 5-7) and BiOS Expo (Feb. 2-3); see the asterisks in the article. Visit: for complete details.

Dec 2012
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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