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SPIE Professional April 2011

Prism Awards: Honoring Photonics Innovators

Nine companies with cutting-edge products and technologies receive Prism Awards for Photonics Innovation.

Prism Awards for Photonics InnovationNew technologies for lasers and laser-based instruments that were introduced during the 50th anniversary of the laser, along with optical sensors, an imaging system for detecting melanoma, and other cutting-edge products, were honored with 2010 Prism Awards for Photonics Innovation.

The awards were presented by SPIE and Photonics Media in January during SPIE Photonics West. The global competition recognizes photonics products and technologies that improve life, break conventional ideas, and solve problems.

A panel of industry experts judged some 100 entries for the Prism Awards, selecting nine winners in separate categories from among 26 finalists who had launched the new products in 2010.

The winning entries came from small and big companies in Europe and North America, highlighting the diverse creativity and expertise behind their development and the wide range of applications in which optics and photonics technologies play a vital function.

The Prism Award winners are part of the "great photonics enterprise that has already contributed so much to enhance our lives and that will play an increasingly important role in a sustainable future," says Eugene Arthurs, SPIE executive director.

Among the winning laser-based devices and technologies were Block Engineering's quantum-cascade laser spectrometer for stand-off materials detection, IPG Photonics' quasi-continuous-wave industrial fiber laser, EKSPLA's series of nanosecond tunable wavelength lasers, and Energetiq Technology's wide-band light source, based on a laser plasma, used for advanced spectroscopic and imaging applications.

General Electric won for an analytics system that can perform eight water-quality tests simultaneously, Edmund Optics received an award for its hybrid aspheric lenses, and JenLab was honored for its tomographic skin imaging system. Photonis USA's optical receiver module with a fast photomultiplier tube won in the information and communication category, and a measurement sensor shaped like a microscope slide won for Lumen Dynamics Group, formerly EXFO Life Sciences & Industrial.

"The products and processes submitted for review are world-class," says Thomas Laurin, president of Photonics Media. "They reflect both the leadership and expertise of the organizations in the field." More information about the winning products in each category is on the following pages.

†Denotes SPIE Corporate member

Defense and Security
Block Engineering

LaserScan Analyzer

Block Engineering's award-winning entryThe LaserScan QCL-based spectrometer is a handheld, mid-IR quantum-cascade-laser spectrometer that analyzes surfaces from a standoff of six inches to two feet. No broadband emitting source or Michelson interferometer is required in this approach for spectroscopy. Instead, the laser source can be widely (600 cm-1) and rapidly tuned to create a spectrum. Extremely fast electronics allow the detector to essentially correlate the light that it collects with the specific wavelength of the laser as it rapidly and continuously tunes across the range. LaserScan can be used to detect explosive materials, traditional and nontraditional chemical agents, toxic industrial chemicals and other surface contaminants or chemical threats. It also has many commercial applications including cleaning validation for pharmaceutical manufacturing, analysis of polymers, and quality assurance and control.

Detectors, Sensing, Imaging, and Cameras
General Electric

TrueSense Personal Water Analytics

GE's TrueSense personal water analytics systemGE's TrueSense™ personal water analytics system is based on multicolor LEDs and a 44-cell sampler platform for wavelength-multiplexed quantitative and highly selective chemical analysis of industrial water. The field-deployable system performs eight water quality tests from a single 3-ml sample in minutes, decreasing previous sample times from 50 minutes to eight minutes. Employing simplified, easy-to-perform testing procedures, the TrueSense system minimizes the need to maintain an inventory of reagent chemicals and equipment for testing and considerably cuts testing costs. GE has 10 granted and pending US patents for sensing array devices like TrueSense for the industrial water chemical analysis market.

Industrial Lasers
IPG Photonics†


IPG Photonics' YLR-150/1500-QCW-ACThe YLR-150/1500 quasi-continuous-wave AC fiber laser was created to replace aging flashlamp-pumped, solid-state lasers with smaller and longer-lasting diode-pumped devices. This long-pulse, high-pulse-energy fiber laser uses proprietary pump diodes that can be pulsed at 10 times their average power, producing 15 J from a 150-W fiber laser. It also has a smaller rack-mounted, air-cooled package that has 30% wallplug efficiency. The new type of laser is recommended for spot welding, seam welding, and drilling in the long-pulse operation mode.

Information and Communication

Optical Receiver Module

PHOTONIS Optical Receiver ModuleThe PHOTONIS Optical Receiver Module is an optical communications detector that provides fast optical communication using a photomultiplier tube that electron-optically converts a large input diameter to a much smaller flow of electrons inside a vacuum envelope without degrading the signal. The device approaches data speeds of 2GHz, a three to five times increase in speed over other photomultiplier tubes, while providing an active signal input diameter of 12 mm. The reliability of signal current in the blue-green wavelength range improves without significant bit error rates, enabling through-the-air or underwater communications. The receiver's low power requirements also mean that it can be used in unmanned locations.

Life Sciences and Biophotonics
JenLab GmbH†

MPTflexJenLab MPTflex

The MPTflex is a clinical multiphoton tomograph for skin imaging that overcomes the poor resolution of other methods such as ultrasound, OCT, and reflection. By using two-photon technology, the JenLab system's in vivo high-resolution skin imaging provides marker-free optical biopsies. The novel tomograph is a compact system for clinical examinations with a flexible scan head that includes two detectors for simultaneous measurement of autofluorescence and the second-harmonic generation.

Optics and Optical Components
Edmund Optics†

TECHSPEC Plastic Hybrid Aspheric LensesEdmund Optics TECHSPEC Plastic Hybrid Aspheric Lens

Edmund Optics' plastic hybrid aspheric lenses provide optical designers with a single-element solution for achieving diffraction-limited focusing performance at high numerical apertures with broadband light sources. These low-cost optical components are the first to be designed to work in the visible spectrum and are free of both spherical and chromatic aberration. The technology has been previously applied to infrared components by diamond turning a few diffractive rings (a 0.63 NA on Germanium at 4 microns requires 17 rings over a 25mm aperture). To achieve the same NA at 587nm on plastic, 425 rings are needed in that same 25mm space.

Other Light Sources
Energetiq Technology†

EQ-99 LDLS™ Laser-Driven Light SourceEnergetiq Technology EQ-99 LDLS™

The EQ-99 laser-driven light source is a compact, highly stable source of broadband deep ultraviolet, visible, and near-infrared light for advanced spectroscopic and imaging applications requiring ultra-long lamp life. Its spectral output provides more than 10 times the brightness and lifetime of conventional lamps and a broader bandwidth than xenon and deuterium lamps. Used for advanced spectroscopic and imaging applications, it is changing the paradigm in broadband illumination and enabling a new generation of smaller, faster, more precise spectroscopy or imaging instruments.

Employing Energetiq's patented laser-driven xenon plasma technology, the EQ-99 provides a single-light source solution for researchers and engineers who typically need to purchase and operate multiple lamps or lasers.

Scientific Lasers

NT200 series nanosecond tunable wavelength lasersEKSPLA NT200 nanosecond tunable wavelength laser

The NT200 series include the first nanosecond lasers that offer tunability from the UV (210 nm) to the IR (2600 nm) without gaps in the tuning range and that can operate at a computer-controlled, hands-free pulse repetition rate of 1 kHz. The high repetition rate opens the way for scientific experiments that were not possible before the development of such a widely tunable monochromatic light source. The system integrates a nanosecond Optical Parametric Oscillator (OPO) and Diode-Pumped Solid-State (DPSS) Q-switched pump laser into a single compact housing.

Test, Measurement, Metrology
Lumen Dynamics Group

(formerly EXFO Life Sciences & Industrial)

X-Cite XP750Lumen Dynamics Group X-Cite XP750

The X-Cite XP750 is an optical power measurement sensor shaped like a microscope slide. It fits in standard microscope stage clips to hold it in place during use, unlike wand and disc-shaped devices that are awkward to use. The X-Cite is thin enough (9 mm) to fit under the objectives on an upright microscope without the stage or condenser having to be removed. Other novel features for microscopists include: a dynamic power range from 5uW to 500mW without requiring the user to engage attenuating filters; programmable favorite wavelength settings; and a centering target for use on inverted microscopes.

International Competition

The nine companies honored in the 2010 Prism Awards for Photonics Innovation are from North America and Europe.

Four of the U.S. companies are from Massachusetts: Block Engineering, Energetiq Technology, IPG Photonics, and PHOTONIS USA.

Other companies honored that have American headquarters are General Electric (Connecticut) and Edmund Optics (New Jersey).

Lumen Dynamics is headquartered in Ontario, Canada. (Riverside, its parent company, is a global private equity company with executive offices in the United States and elsewhere.)

EKSPLA's main office is in Vilnius, Lithuania.

JenLab was founded in Jena, Germany, in 1999.

Award Presenters

Michael Mertin was a Prism Awards presenter

The Prism Awards for Photonics Innovation were presented by

  • Stuart Schoenmann (CVI Melles Griot)
  • Marita Paasch (SCHOTT)
  • Bill Shiner (IPG Photonics)
  • Ken Kaufmann (Hamamatsu)
  • Ronald Driggers (U.S. Naval Research Lab)
  • Robert Edmund (Edmund Optics)
  • Milton Chang (Incubic Management)
  • Michael Mertin (JENOPTIK)
  • David Hardwick (IMRA America)
Call for Entries: Prism Awards 2011

Do you have an innovative photonics product or technology coming to market this year? Be recognized as a leader of your industry and participate in the competition for the 2011-12 Prism Awards for Photonics Innovation.

If you sold or delivered (or plan to sell or deliver) a sensor, laser, imaging device, or related product between September 2010 and December 2011, you are eligible to submit an application.

The deadline for applying for a Prism Award is 16 September 2011.

Have a question or comment about this article? Write to us at spieprofessional@spie.org.

DOI: 10.1117/2.4201104.18

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