Tunable supercontinuum lasers, 3D-printed optics, and scanners for bacteria detection were among the nine photonics innovations to receive a 2015 Prism Award for Photonics Innovation at SPIE Photonics West in February.
Winning products included medical diagnostic and chemical sensing applications for mobile devices, a ground-breaking laser with uses including solar-panel manufacture and the first of a new class of optical interconnects that enable the next generation of data center design. Several were collaborative projects among companies, and products demonstrated a strong theme of multi-technology applications.
Altogether, companies from six countries received awards for innovations that challenge conventional ideas; solve problems in healthcare, manufacturing, and other areas; and improve life through the generation and harnessing of light.
The Prism Awards for Photonics Innovation are sponsored by SPIE and Photonics Media and judged by a panel of photonics experts.
• Videos from the 2015 Prism Awards for Photonics Innovation ceremony are available on SPIE.TV.
LUXeXceL, a Netherlands startup, won a Prism Award in a new category, additive manufacturing, for its “Printoptical” technology for manufacturing functional LED optics.
This year’s winning technologies also included a device from BacterioScan (USA) for high-speed detection of bacteria in extremely low concentrations; a Hamamatsu (Japan) micro-spectrometer the size of a fingertip; a thermal imager for smart phones from Seek Thermal (USA) and Raytheon (USA); and the Fianium (UK) supercontinuum fiber laser that provides spectral brightness across all wavelengths.
Photonics technologies have an important role in improving quality of life, and its applications have significant economic impact as well, said SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs. “This year, during the UN’s International Year of Light and Light-based Technologies, it is especially fitting to recognize and celebrate the remarkable ability of photonics to enable solutions to the world’s challenges. Ours is an industry of creative minds, and the Prism Awards give us an opportunity to celebrate some of the most outstanding among those,” Arthurs said.
Tom Laurin, CEO of Laurin Publishing, also praised the winners’ creativity. “It is our great pleasure to collaborate annually with SPIE to present the Prism Awards, and we congratulate this year’s winners,” he said. “It is wonderful to witness the ongoing innovation from companies that have been part of the industry for years as well as to support the emerging organizations and individuals shaping the future of the photonics industry.”
Entrepreneurs and venture capitalists active in the photonics industry presented the awards.
Applications for the 2016 Prism Awards for Photonics Innovation will be available in June 2015.
Winners in each category are listed below.
LUXeXceL (The Netherlands)
Printoptical technology is a form of 3D printing developed for manufacturing functional LED optics. Printoptical technology is an on-demand additive process that uses “fluent dynamics” to achieve smooth surfaces, with printers that jet individual UV-curable material droplets rather than printing layer by layer under the traditional 3D printing process. By jetting, flowing, and merging before curing, the digital printer platform prints optical components directly from a CAD file and requires no post-processing. This process is used for both rapid prototyping and production of optical components, and a single print job can produce a functional pair of glasses, frame, and lenses.
The Laser Microbial Growth Monitor (LMGM) enables researchers to quantify bacterial growth in a liquid in less than 20 minutes, a great improvement over data that once required days to compile using agar plating techniques. The monitor can detect changes in bacterial growth within 10%; a urinary tract infection within 90 minutes with greater than 90% sensitivity; and antibiotic resistance measurements in less than two hours compared to more than 30 hours for current protocols. Using a low-cost laser, detector arrays, computer hardware, and precision plastic optics, the LMGM can detect particles in liquid specimens in the range of 0.1 to 10 microns in diameter, requires no tags or reagents, and can generate quantified bacterial growth curves with three-minute measurement resolution.
Detectors and Sensors
To overcome the size constraints associated with traditional spectrometers and allow portable spectral measurements, Hamamatsu used MOEMS technology and fabrication methods to develop the C12666MA micro-spectrometer. About the size of a fingertip, the micro-spectrometer consists of a grating chip and a CMOS image sensor chip. It offers a spectral response range of 340 to 780 nm and a 15 nm maximum spectral resolution. The ultra-compact device can be used for color monitoring in printers, testing lights and LEDs, adjusting color in large displays, environmental measuring instruments, and measuring instruments that use portable devices like smartphones and tablets.
Imaging + Cameras
Seek Thermal, Inc. and Raytheon (USA)
Seek Thermal and Raytheon collaborated to develop a breakthrough 32,000-thermal-pixel imaging chip by harnessing innovations in infrared detector designs, solid-state optical MEMS manufacturing, and affordable infrared optics. Applications include boating, to see dark objects at night and under water; safety and security, to scan dark parking lots, yards, and basements; and home repair, to scan walls for leaks and water damage. The .5-ounce device plugs into a smart phone, allowing the user to take and share thermal photos and videos, highlight everything in the scene above or below a specified temperature, and swipe seamlessly between regular and thermal images.
IPG Photonics (USA) *
The GLPN-500-R, a 500 W quasi-continuous wave green single-mode fiber laser, brings the advantages of fiber-laser technologies to the visible spectrum with high output power, wall-plug efficiency, and low cost. The optical radiation is delivered via single-mode optical fiber directly to the frequency-converting crystal to provide industrial-grade reliability and excellent output-beam quality for industrial manufacturing applications from copper welding to solar-cell manufacturing. Other advantages of the green laser include lower divergence, smaller focal spot, and higher absorption of many materials, which results in more efficient laser-to-target energy coupling and improvements in process efficiency and throughput.
Materials + Coatings
Inrad Optics (USA) *
Stilbene Scintillation Crystals are used for radiation detection and for discrimination between fast neutrons and a gamma-ray background. Availability and price have been significant barriers for its widespread use, but Inrad Optics succeeded in growing large single crystals of stilbene from solution and fabricating them into cylinders and other geometries. The crystals are packaged in a protective housing and coupled to a photodetector to create a neutron detection system. When grown from solution, the crystals have higher quality, and scalability to large volumes is more cost effective. The commercial availability of stilbene will enable next-generation systems to better detect neutrons in security, medical, research, and industrial applications.
Optics + Optical Components
Intel, Corning, and US Conec (USA)
Next-generation data centers need a new class of connectors that carry more data, are smaller, more resilient to damage and dust, and available at a lower cost. Intel, Corning, and US Conec combined forces to meet these needs and developed the MXC connector. This parallel optical connector is designed with advanced composite, precision-molded plastics for lower-cost manufacturing. The MXC has fewer parts than conventional connectors, and a clever Ultem ferrule expands the beam from 50µm to 180µm. A pin and hole are molded into the spring-loaded ferrule, replacing expensive alignment pins, allowing for more tolerance and lower cost. The connector supports up to 64 fibers, and with 25Gbps per fiber, cables that carry 1.6 Tbps of data can be installed.
Other Metrology Instrumentation
WITec (Germany) and TESCAN ORSAY (Czech Republic)
RISE Microscopy is a correlative microscopy technique that combines confocal Raman Imaging and Scanning Electron (RISE) microscopy within one integrated microscope system for comprehensive sample characterization. Electron microscopy is an excellent technique for visualizing sample surface structures in the nanometer range, and confocal Raman imaging is an established spectroscopic method used for the detection of the chemical and molecular components of a sample. Together, these techniques can generate 2D and 3D images and depth profiles to visualize the distribution of the molecular compounds within a sample. RISE Microscopy also enables the acquisition of SEM and Raman images from the same sample area and the correlation of ultra-structural and chemical information with one microscope system.
Fianium (UK) *
Rather than using multiple individual lasers at a range of different wavelengths, the WhiteLase SC400-20 supercontinuum fiber laser provides a single, widely tunable laser source that produces high power output across the visible and near-infrared spectrum for applications ranging from medicine to electronic devices. The 20W supercontinuum fiber laser provides high spectral brightness across the 400 nm to 2400 nm range. With the addition of a tunable filter, the laser can deliver over 100mW of tunable (narrowband) output power at any wavelength. The power scaling also costs less and, thanks to picosecond pulses at MHz repetition rates, is capable of both steady-state and lifetime measurements.
* SPIE Corporate Member