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SPIE Professional April 2013

Prism Awards 2013

Ten innovators recognized with Prism Awards

Image of Logo for Prism Awards

Winning technologies in the 2013 Prism Awards for Photonics Innovation include an early-stage diagnostic tool for skin cancers, a portable device to test for toxins in water and food, and a versatile laser capable of meeting multiple industrial needs.

Recipients of the 2013 Prism Awards were announced in February at SPIE Photonics West in San Francisco. Winners included SPIE corporate members Princeton Instruments, Heidelberg Instruments, Continuum, and OEwaves, a winner in last year’s awards.

Raman tools win two awards

Spectroscopy technologies were featured heavily as Raman tools won two awards, for LEOSPHERE (France) and Verisante Technology (Canada).

Verisante was recognized in the “Life Science and Biophotonics” category for the Aura system, a hand-held Raman probe which distinguishes between benign and malignant skin lesions using a 785nm excitation source.

As skin cancer rates are increasing in many countries, research groups around the world have been working to apply Raman spectroscopy to the detection of different cancers. “But none have gone to the commercialization stage before now,” says Verisante CEO Thomas Braun.

Tie in green photonics

LEOSPHERE was one of two companies that tied for the “Green Photonics” category — recognizing solutions that generate or conserve energy, reduce pollution, and yield sustainable outputs.

LEOSPHERE won for the R-MAN510 dual-polarization Raman lidar system — designed for accurate and real-time classification of aerosols. Its network-mode operation enables the easy identification of volcanic ash for enhanced air traffic security.

The other green photonics winner was the ChromaID device from Visualant (USA). It tests virtually any material, liquid, gas, aerosol, or color using spectral pattern-matching technology. Using this technology, doctors could check skin lesions with a smartphone, police officers could determine if a substance is an illegal drug, and passports and import products could be authenticated based on their color signatures.

“There’s a whole host of medical, agricultural, and environmental diagnostic capabilities we haven’t thought of yet,” said Ron Erickson, Visualant founder and CEO. “We’re working with a technology that has unlimited potential.”

Pointing out the increasing interest in green technologies, Erickson noted that the Fortune 500 are increasingly looking at their core business through a sustainability lens.

“The business consultant Deloitte reports 49% of CFOs see sustainability as a key driver of future financial performance,” Erickson said.

Photonics for positive change

SPIE Executive Director Eugene Arthurs noted how photonics technologies in all categories are gaining importance in everyday life.

“This year’s Prism winners serve as inspiring examples of the many ways ubiquitous photonics technologies touch and improve our lives — diagnosing and treating disease, ensuring food hygiene and water purity, maintaining safety in our communities — as well as improving research capabilities to address those and other challenges,” Arthurs said.

“While the Prism Awards provide well-deserved recognition for these innovative companies, they also serve to underscore the powerful role of photonics R&D in effecting positive change in the world.”

A panel of leading industry experts, academics, and venture capitalists determined the winners in nine categories. Winners in their respective categories were:

Defense and Security

OEwaves (USA)
Micro-Opto-Electronic-Oscillator (µOEO)

This optical microresonator offers low phase noise, low vibration, and acceleration sensitivity for signal sources required in both high-frequency and high-performance applications. At the heart of the µOEO is a whispering-gallery-mode optical microresonator with a postage-stamp-sized (~ 1 mm) footprint that generates signals in the microwave and millimeter wave frequencies used by the military. Based on optical properties of ultrahigh-quality-factor microresonators, the µOEO enables significant performance improvements in airborne radar and signal intelligence systems in operating environments on miniature military platforms such as UAVs.

Detectors, Sensing, Imaging, and Cameras

Princeton Instruments (USA)
IsoPlane SCT Spectrograph

With its novel optical design, the IsoPlane gives researchers the ability to utilize the full spatial extent of their detector without loss of spectral or spatial resolution. Historically, only the center of the focal plane of an imaging spectrograph was corrected for aberrations, leaving the edges of the focal plane highly distorted from astigmatism and other higher-order aberrations. The IsoPlane achieves a near- perfect dispersed image of the instrument’s entrance slit or any extended source placed at the slit plane, such as an optical-fiber array. The IsoPlane’s number of resolvable optical fiber channels is on the order of 100, a factor of 10 times greater than what was previously possible for similar aperture ratio spectrographs.

Green Photonics (TIE)

Visualant (USA)

The ChromaID tests virtually any material, liquid, gas, aerosol, or color using spectral pattern-matching (SPM) technology to record and analyze invisible chromatic identifiers. Patterns of a light-spectrum signature are collected from the structured light transmission of 36 LEDs, and processing software matches the reflected pattern against a database in the cloud. A Bluetooth interface allows the ChromaID to communicate with smartphones for field testing of water, food, biofuel, and commercial fuel, or to be configured for integration into systems for continuous sensing applications. SPM technology can be used in environmental testing as well as in medical, security, manufacturing, and agricultural applications.


The R-MAN510, with its Raman and dual-polarized channels, combines the full performances of sophisticated research lidar 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, such as ash from volcanic eruptions or dust, biomass particles, or soot. The R-MAN510 emits in the UV (355 nm) with a low-energy and low-maintenance diode-pumped tripled Nd:YAG laser and its algorithm identifies four types of clouds and five types of aerosols. The system’s Raman inelastic, 387 nm backscattered signal provides self-calibration for the instrument, so ancillary measurements or presuppositions about particle type are not required.

Industrial Lasers

TeraDiode (USA)
TeraBlade 2kW High Brightness Direct Diode Laser

This high-brightness laser emitter allows direct diode lasers to cut and weld steel in industrial applications. With its wavelength beam-combining technology, the TeraBlade combines the output of any number of laser emitters, of any type, wavelength, or power, into a single, incoherent laser beam while retaining the brightness of the original emitters. The result is a great improvement in brightness compared to a single source. This technology can be applied to any laser wavelength and has been demonstrated from 450 nm to 9 µm and in lasers where the sources in the cavity were more than an octave apart, at 760 nm, 1500 nm, and 1600 nm.

Life Sciences and Biophotonics

Verisante Technology (Canada)

The Aura™ is a novel Raman spectroscopy device designed to aid in the early detection of all forms of skin cancer including melanoma, basal- and squamous-cell carcinoma. The near-infrared, in vivo system provides valuable information by identifying spectral changes associated with the biochemistry of skin-cancer cells in less than a second, providing immediate results. Unlike other optical devices for skin cancer detection, Aura does not use visual characteristics to assess skin lesions; it scans the biochemical constituents of the skin based on molecular vibrations. Aura’s underlying technology has also shown promise in the early detection of other cancers including lung, cervical, and colon cancer.


Heidelberg Instruments (Germany)
MicroPG501 Direct-Write Lithography System

The µPG501 is a desktop maskless aligner lithography tool able to write small patterns into photoresists without using a photomask — allowing the user to go directly from design to imaging on the substrate. The system can write structures down to 1 µm at a speed of 50 mm2 /min. The integrated exposure wizard (GUI) guides the operator through the complete procedure: Load the substrate, select the design, and start the exposure. The µPG 501 was designed to fit into even the smallest R&D laboratories and requires only a power connection and an air pressure supply to operate.

Optics and Optical Components

TAG Optics (USA)
TAG Lens 2.0

The TAG Lens 2.0 is a tunable gradient index of refraction (GRIN) device, exhibiting aspherical wavefronts with low spherical aberrations for emerging applications in industrial or biomedical imaging, laser microprocessing, and metrology. The fundamental principle behind the TAG Lens 2.0 is that sound traveling through a liquid causes small, coordinated density fluctuations at well-defined locations. Because a material’s index of refraction is related to its density, these changes can be controlled to produce the desired optical effect. The result is an ultrahigh-speed device capable of extending the depth of field of conventional optics or providing user-specified focal lengths.

Scientific Lasers

Continuum (USA)
Horizon OPO

The Horizon OPO is a research tool designed to transform the way spectroscopists work: Instead of using multiple devices to conduct research, scientists can have one all-encompassing tool allowing them to take their experiment through the entire spectrum. The Horizon OPO is a unique oscillator with a sophisticated cavity design and optimized optical configuration that exhibits an efficiency of greater than 40%. It provides narrow linewidth, excellent beam quality, and a gap-free tuning range from 192 nm to 2750 nm (vacuum UV). With its wider tuning range, the Horizon OPO opens possibilities for new applications. Direct-drive digital motors ensure linear and fine-controlled scanning and eliminate backlash for precise and accurate bidirectional scanning.

Test, Measurement, Metrology

Linden Photonics (USA)
Lindex Optics Cleaners

The Van der Waals force allows a gecko’s feet to stick to slick walls with the aid of tiny microhairs. Harnessing the power of nature, Lindex fiber-optics cleaners employ this force to make contaminants such as carbon and oils stick to their highly absorptive fiber optics cleaning tool at a molecular level. This innovative, carbon nanotube-based cleaning material offers an improvement over cotton- and foam-based materials, helping to eliminate cross-contamination and the need for post-cleaning inspections. The cleaner is made from a dry adhesive material that can be used with or without solvents.

Call for Entries for 2014 Prism Awards

Applications for the 2014 Prism Awards for Photonics Innovation will be available by April. Apply online by 20 September 2013.

The Prism Awards for Photonics Innovation recognize some of the best new photonic products on the world market.

Since the first competition in 2008, the Prism Awards program has received applications from more than 35 countries across the globe.

A record number of applications were received for the 2013 competition.

DOI: 10.1117/2.4201304.05

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