Thorlabs Adds to its Optics Portfolio with Cirtemo Acquisition

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Thorlabs will acquire Columbia, S.C.-based Cirtemo LLC, including its two unique technologies, multivariate optical elements (MOEs) for spectroscopic chemical analysis and nanopatterning tools used to “3D print” photolithography masks using nanoparticles.

Cirtemo’s MOEs are wide-band optical spectral filters capable of detecting complex chemical signatures using a simplified optical instrument, effectively replacing a dispersive spectrometer with a compact instrument that uses a single element detector.

Although MOEs are fabricated using the same techniques as traditional optical bandpass filters, Cirtemo’s wide-band optical interference filters are capable of sampling more spectral wavelengths than discrete bandpass filters. By doing so, MOEs provide a higher level of sensitivity and specificity for real-time chemical detection of powders, liquids, slurries, and gases.

With the use of MOEs, spectroscopic optical systems can be smaller and lighter, and can be subjected to harsher environments than traditional optical systems, all while achieving the same analyte detection capabilities of laboratory-grade optical spectrometers.

The compact, MOE-enabled filter photometer configuration, achieved by combining multiple MOEs with a single system, is particularly advantageous for in-line process monitoring on the factory floor, point-of-care clinical use, and incorporation into field-based instruments. Using multiple MOEs, a focal plane array can be leveraged to create a real-time hyperspectral imager that can be employed to detect hazardous chemicals, explosive materials, and biological samples.

Cirtemo’s technology provides a low-cost and higher throughput alternative to the traditional microlithography techniques used to produce 2D-patterned structures. The company’s pattern transfer nanomanufacturing platform can be used to create customized photolithographic masks.

The masks are “printed” by fusing ferrous nanoparticles that are organized into patterns that vary from simple lines to complex mixtures of lines, dots, circles, and polygons that can be etched into a range of flat or curved substrates.

Among other things, the pattern transfer nanomanufacturing process is ideal for producing custom diffractive optical elements for use in the UV to IR spectral range. It can be applied to numerous substrate materials, including polymers, silicon wafers, fused silica, sapphire, and even optical fibers, thereby creating laser-quality, robust, miniaturized optical components.

The Cirtemo team will remain in South Carolina, form a division called Thorlabs Spectral Works (TSW), and operate as an R&D facility reporting to Thorlabs’ Optics Business Unit in Newton, N.J.

Published: May 2019
A lithographic technique using an image produced by photography for printing on a print-nonprint, sectioned surface.
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