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SPIE Professional April 2009

Innovations in Photonics

Inaugural Prism Awards for Photonics Innovation celebrated photonics products, processes, and technologies.
Prism Awards for Photonics Innovation

A cylindrical solar photovoltaic system that captures more sunlight than traditional flat panels, a laser that promises to enhance the efficacy of photocoagulation as a treatment modality for wet-form macular degeneration, technology that enables manipulation of both photons and electrons on a single chip, and a wafer-level camera for mobile phones are among the honorees in the first annual Prism Awards for Photonics Innovation.

Ten companies from Spain, Germany, and the United States who developed innovative products, processes, and technologies for the photonics industry received the Prism Awards at SPIE Photonics West in January.

A distinguished panel of 28 independent experts selected winners in nine categories from more than 130 entries. They also named Luxtera’s Blazar 40G Optical Active Cable, which enables direct fiber-to-chip connectivity, as the overall “Best in Show” winner as well as winner in the photonics systems category.

The Prism Awards for Photonics Innovation, sponsored by SPIE and Laurin Publishing, is a global competition for innovative products, processes, and technologies for the photonics industry. All of the lasers, light sources, and other photonics innovations in the award competition were brought to market between September 2007 and September 2008.

“These winning inventions demonstrate the remarkable creativity of the photonics community, the restless inventive energy that is what SPIE is all about,” said SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs.


Michael Mertin, president and CEO of Jenoptik AG, and SPIE President María Yzuel enjoyed the awards ceremony for the Prism Awards for Photonics Innovation. Yzuel noted that the award winners are producing positive change for our future, the economy, and the world.

The innovations will help many in the optics industry be more effective in contributing solutions “that will play an increasingly important role in a sustainable future,” he added.

Indeed, many of the winning companies noted in their award applications the impact that their photonics innovations are having on making the world a better place.

Both Coherent’s and Daylight Solutions’ lasers are used in medical applications, for instance. Solyndra’s cylindrical PV system is more efficient at converting solar energy to electricity and less costly to install than traditional systems.

Prism Award Winners and Their Award Categories

Aragon Photonics Labs (Spain, Analytical, Test, and Measurement) for its BOSA-C Compact High-Resolution Optical Spectrum Analyzer, with measurement resolution 1000 times greater than that of grating-based optical spectrum analyzers, offering new information about sources and modulators


Aragon Photonics Labs

Coherent (USA, Lasers, tie) for the OPSL 577-3 Solid-State Laser, the first laser to exploit the wavelength and power scalability of optically pumped semiconductor technology and a device that is expected to significantly improve photocoagulation treatment in surgery for wet-form macular degeneration


Coherent booth at SPIE Photonics West.

Daylight Solutions (USA, Lasers, tie) for its Broadly Tunable, CW Mode-Hop-free Laser System that maintains a single spatial mode profile across the entire tuning range of 80 wave numbers in the mid-IR, eliminating the need for researchers in the fields of medical diagnostics, explosives detection, and environmental monitoring to build their own systems and conduct extensive calibration experiments


Daylight Solutions

JPK Instruments AG (Germany, Life Sciences) for its JPK NanoTracker, a two-beam optical-tweezer and particle-tracking platform which can be used in single-molecule force measurements, particle/cell interactions, and other applications


JPK Instruments AG

Luxtera (USA, Photonics Systems and overall Best in Show) for the Blazar cable that can manipulate photons and electrons on a single chip and reduce power consumption

NoblePeak Vision (USA, Detectors, Sensing, and Imaging) for its TriWave Camera, a germanium-enhanced CMOS imager that uses a natural SWIR (More on NoblePeak Vision.)

Princetel (USA, Photonics Processes) for its FP180 Hand Polisher, a portable device built especially for no-spark environments and where power is unavailable


Princetel

Sensor Electronic Technology, Inc., (USA, Other Light Sources) for its Deep UV Light Sources based on III-Nitride semiconductors, used in LEDs


Sensor Electronic Technology, Inc.

Solyndra (USA, Sustainable/Green Technology), for its cylindrical solar photovoltaic system that converts direct, diffuse, and reflected sunlight into electricity (Read separate article about this technology).

Tessera Technologies (USA, Optics) for producing OptiML WLC, the first wafer-level camera for cell phones. The technology reduces manufacturing and development costs, enabling thousands of lenses to be built simultaneously at wafer level and reducing module size by up to 50%.


Tessera Technologies

Michael Bereziuk, executive vice president, Imaging & Optics at Tessera, said it was a privilege to receive a Prism Award for Photonics Innovation for its OptiML Wafer-Level Camera technology.

"As devices such as cell phones get smaller, innovative imaging solutions such as our OptiML WLC technology will transform next-generation handsets by enabling higher levels of functionality for consumers while providing a smaller, lower-cost, more reliable camera module solution for manufacturers," he said.

OptiML WLC technology reduces the size of camera modules by up to 50%. The innovative technology enables thousands of tiny lenses to be formed on a wafer at the same time, substantially lowering total manufacturing costs. By using reflow-compatible materials for the lenses, the technology makes it possible for camera modules to go through high-heat soldering of up to 200 degrees Celsius without damage. This means they can be mounted directly onto phone boards using the same reflow process used to assemble other electronics, which reduces costs.

Frank Pelzer, CEO of JPK Instruments AG, also commented on his company's award. "We are pleased that our many years of research are not only appreciated by our customers but have now also found favor with a panel of international experts," Pelzer said. "Our special thanks go to our employees, without whom this technological achievement would not have been possible."

JPK's NanoTracker operates with laser tweezers and can trap, track, and detect nanoparticles solely with light, affording medical researchers "completely new insights and possibilities," Pelzer said.

Coherent's Laser

Coherent's solid-state, optically-pumped semiconductor laser (OPSL) is the first new visible, high-power, yellow laser offered in many years and is the first commercially available OPSL to deliver multiwatt output at an applications-specified wavelength.

"It is particularly exciting to see how advances in laser technology translate into patient benefits in medical treatments," said Matthias Schulze, director of marketing of OEM components and instrumentation at Coherent. Coherent's OPSL-577-3 laser is expected to significantly enhance the efficacy of photocoagulation as a treatment modality for wet-form macular degeneration. The disease causes periodic ruptures of small blood vessels in the retina, and laser photocoagulation is used to seal the leaking vessel without damaging peripheral tissue.

Since leaking blood is the main differentiating material between the target area and surrounding tissue, a visible laser wavelength that is selectively and effectively absorbed by blood is needed. Also, a visible laser wavelength allows the beam to be delivered through the front of the eye without any damage to the lens or aqueous humor.

In recent years, treatment for wet-form macular degeneration has been accomplished using the 532 nm output of DPSS lasers because the 532 nm is near a weaker absorption of oxy-hemoglobin. However, the visible absorption spectrum of oxy-hemoglobin actually peaks at 577 nm. Coherent innovated with the OPSL-577-3, designing it to deliver 3 watts of output at this specific wavelength and allowing improved vessel closure with reduced thermal loading on the eye.

Coherent notes that the inherent properties of OPSLs are leading researchers to investigate further improvements in photocoagulation treatment. Because the active laser medium is a semiconductor junction with effectively no excited state lifetime, the OPSL can be directly pulsed at very high rates (up to 100 kHz), with a fall time limited only by the ringdown time of the laser cavity.

Arnaud Lepert, product line manager at Coherent, notes that the inherent properties of OPSLs are leading researchers to investigate further improvements in photocoagulation treatment. Because the active laser medium is a semiconductor junction with effectively no excited state lifetime, the OPSL can be directly modulated at very high rates (up to 100 kHz).

Daylight's Laser

Daylight Solution's tool for researchers is a broadly tunable, mode-hop-free laser that can tune more than 80 wave numbers in the mid-IR. Prior to its debut as a commercially available product, researchers in the fields of medical diagnostics, explosive detection, environmental monitoring, and other areas had to build their own systems and conduct extensive calibration experiments.

Now, the laser is no longer the experiment, Daylight says.

The MHF laser maintains its single spatial mode profile across the entire tuning range, while providing better than 0.001 cm-1 spectral line width and CW output powers of up to 100mW.

The system incorporates quantum cascade semiconductor laser technology, telecom packaging, and precision micro-assemblies and optics to develop an entirely new system for molecular studies in the mid-IR.

In addition to precision wavelength control and micro tuning steps, Daylight's system allows current modulation and is equipped with a PZT. This enables fine tuning between each micro step. FM modulation of the signal for 2F-type applications is easily accomplished with the system.

The mode-hop free laser is available with center wavelengths along the mid-IR region-between 3um and 12um.



Prism Awards

The Prism Awards for Photonics Innovation attracted 130 nominations for innovative products, processes, and technologies for the photonics industry that were brought to market between September 2007 and September 2008.

The Prism Awards are open to SPIE members and non-members.


Best in Show

Enabling the manipulation of both photons and electrons on a single chip, Luxtera’s technology that earned it a “Best in Show” prize in the Prism Awards for Photonics Innovation is a pre-assembled, one-piece interconnect unit.

The optically active 40G Blazar cable is thin, flexible, lightweight, and has two permanently attached optical transceiver connectors at either end.

The CMOS photonics product combines optical modules and copper cables, and the optics are hermetically sealed within the package.

The Blazar cable is available in multiple lengths up to 300 meters. This can ease constraints on computer cluster design because its high density and extended reach enable computing and data centers customers to fully populate racks with servers and switches, potentially eliminating the need to expand physical facilities for increased capacity.


DOI: 10.1117/2.4200904.02

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