2016 Prism Awards

Award-winning products provide valuable new capabilities.

01 April 2016

A terahertz source based on quantum cascade lasers (QCLs), cadmium-free quantum dots for display and lighting applications, and laser technology for digital cinema projection were among the winners of the 2016 Prism Awards for Photonics Innovation.

Nine new products from companies in five countries received Prism Awards during SPIE Photonics West in February. SPIE and Photonics Media have presented the awards annually since 2009 in recognition of light-based technologies that solve problems and improve quality of life.

The award-winning products provide valuable new capabilities such as more effectively identifying drugs to target specific diseases, portable imaging and sensing tools for applications from medical diagnostics to astronomy, and 3D printing of precision glass.

“This year’s winning products ingeniously deploy key photonics technologies such as quantum cascade and terahertz lasers, infrared sensing, and 3D printing, placing powerful new capabilities in the hands of users,” said SPIE CEO Eugene Arthurs.

“They address pressing issues such as the world’s need for sustainable energy and light, and clinicians’ needs for quickly identifying the best drugs to target challenging diseases in time to save lives and staunch outbreaks before they become epidemics.”

Products such as these, Arthurs said, are highly effective at demonstrating the potential of photonics technologies to serve humankind “as well as to help grow world economies.”

Award co-sponsor Thomas Laurin, president and CEO of Laurin Publishing, joined Arthurs in congratulating the winners and honoring the memory of Laurin Publishing founder Teddi Laurin, who died in November.

“As we contemplate Teddi’s impact on our business and on the photonics industry, we are reminded that she understood the need to recognize innovation and to applaud the companies that achieved it,” Thomas Laurin said.

Entries were judged by an independent panel of experts including industry executives, leading academic researchers, venture capitalists, and past Prism Award winners.

Winners in each category are:

Biomedical Instrumentation

Biodesy (USA)

Biodesy Delta delivers real-time protein analysis with greater sensitivity, lower cost, and high throughput. Proteins are the workhorses of the body, and Biodesy’s technology measures structural changes in proteins in real time. Structural information is critical to understanding the function or dysfunction of a protein and the mechanism of action of a drug targeted to that protein. Using an ultrafast mode-locked Ti:S laser that excites the second harmonic generation signal, Delta analyzes protein structures in motion in their native environment. Liquid-handling robotics and a custom 384-well microplate with integrated prism optics, proprietary reagents, and software make this optical system perfect for enabling drug discovery.

Detectors & Sensors

Spectral Engines (Finland)

The Wireless IR Analyzer is a miniaturized and robust infrared spectrometer capable of covering infrared ranges above 1.7 µm without any loss in performance. The central element in this resilient IR spectrometer is a novel monolithic, off-plane micromechanical Fabry-Perot interferometer enabling fast and stable operation and resistance to shocks, vibrations, and wear. Unlike conventional spectrometers, the spectral sensor does not have a slit or folding optics. It only requires a single point detector instead of a linear array, allowing simple direct optics and a high throughput. Integrated data-analysis algorithms and a Bluetooth connection make this device an IR spectroscopic lab in your pocket.

Displays & Lighting

Dolby, Christie, Necsel (USA)

The Dolby Vision Cinema Laser Projector was created by Necsel, Dolby, and Christie for a greatly enhanced premium cinema experience with high contrast, high brightness, a wide color gamut, and excellent 3D performance. Necsel developed new laser wavelengths to enable the six color–based 3D as well as new laser integration techniques for the fiber-coupling used in the projector. Christie created a new projector architecture, utilizing Texas Instruments’ DLP cinema technology that enables contrast of greater than 1,000,000:1. Dolby provided high dynamic range expertise and new 3D glasses (using six primary colors) to accommodate the laser primaries and generate the 3D separation. At the systems level, the photonics are backed up by sophisticated software and electronics for image processing.

Imaging & Cameras

First Light Imaging (France)*

C-RED One is an easy-to-use, fast, and extremely low-noise short-wavelength IR camera that has opened a new era in astronomical, biomedical, industry, and defense imagery. The SWIR camera uses avalanche photodiode (APD) technology to improve non-invasive detection and diagnostics for diseases and research. It combines frame rates of 2000 images per second (for a 320x256 pixel format) and sub-electron readout noise with revolutionary APD detector technology made of HgCdTe photodiodes to offer noiseless amplification of the signal by single electron multiplication. C-RED One’s maintenance-free embedded cooling system brings the camera down to cryogenic temperature (80K) using an integrated pulse tube with a reliability much higher than standard coolers.

Industrial Lasers

LightFab (Germany)

The LightFab 3D printer combines a 1µm focus with a fast 3D beam-steering system, a high-precision 3-axis system, and a powerful femtosecond laser for applications that require high-precision, high-resolution 3D microstructures. This system allows rapid digital production of 3D glass parts, using both two-photon polymerization for additive processes and selective laser etching for subtractive effects. The 3D microscanner in the printer integrates a fast focus shifter with a galvanometer scanner for rapid beam deflection, which permits quick production of complex designs. The 3D printer makes possible the mass production of micro 3D glass and will impact optics, precision mechanics, electronics, chemistry, and medicine.

Materials & Coatings

Nanoco (UK)

The Nanoco non-toxic, cadmium-free quantum dots (CFQD) enable a broad range of new applications in display and lighting, from high-end televisions and horticulture lighting to bio-imaging and solar. Nanoco’s patented “molecular seeding” process — along with the fact that manufacturers can use existing infrastructure — means production of heavy-metal–free quantum dots can be scaled easily for large volumes. The process utilizes a molecular cluster compound as the nucleation site for nanoparticle growth, avoiding the need for a high-temperature injection step. Particle growth is maintained by the periodic addition of precursors at moderate temperatures until the desired particle size is reached.

Optics & Optical Components

Boulder Nonlinear Systems (USA)*

Beam steering with large-aperture liquid-crystal polarization gratings (LCPGs) will enable a variety of electro-optics technologies including defense, aerospace, energy, automotive, and telecommunications. The LCPGs can provide reduced scanner mass, and they require less power compared with mechanical counterparts of similar scanning capabilities. Being non-mechanical, LCPGs avoid hysteresis, ringing, and settling and are ideal for inertially sensitive systems like small satellites. While these gratings provide discrete steering at fixed angles, they can be combined with fine-angle steering mechanisms for continuous angular coverage and operate from VIS to MWIR. Large aperture LCPG beam-steering systems can also enable agile long-range laser systems by providing clear aperture sizes up to 10 cm.

Other Metrology Instrumentation

4D Technology (USA)*

The FlexCam is a compact, vibration-insensitive, high-resolution, 3D metrology module that meets the need for fast, scalable, cost-effective defect and roughness metrology for flexible electronics, including wearable health/fitness monitors, organic LED displays, and thin-film solar devices. FlexCam modules combine custom optics; ultra-high-brightness LEDs, FPGA, and ARM processors; and additive manufacturing to meet the challenging needs of roll-to-roll process metrology. Measuring just 175x97x25 mm and weighing approximately one US pound, the FlexCam is easy to position in process equipment. The optical design provides vertical and lateral resolution and each module processes all data on-board, calculating and reporting statistics in real time without the need for external computing power.

Scientific Lasers

Lytid (France)

TeraCascade is a compact and user-friendly high-frequency terahertz laser source. This laser source transforms state-of-the-art quantum cascade laser technology into a tool that works with nearly every THz detector on the market. The high output power in a compact desktop packaging allows real-time imaging using terahertz cameras, and it delivers more than 1mW of average power in continuous-wave mode. Ideally emitting at a frequency of 2.5THz (112µm), an atmospheric transmission window, it operates without any external environment control. The packaging is designed to protect the laser from the environment as well as minimize the transmission of vibrations and bumps, and its compact size and weight make TeraCascade easily transportable.

*Indicates SPIE corporate member.

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