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NanoOpto Gains Traction

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OFC/NFOEC News Analysis
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NanoOpto Corp. lined up two more partners this week, evidence that the company is finding new ways to apply nanotechnology to optics (see NanoOpto Gets Two Partners). The startup will be showing off the new applications for its nanotechnology – otherwise known as really tiny stuff – at the OFC Conference in Atlanta next week.

NanoOpto's products so far include polarization beam splitters and waveplates, the latter having been exhibited at NFOEC (see NanoOpto Gets Back To Basics). This week's announcements focused on using nanostructures to shrink the size of those components.

The company is aiming for a high degree of automation, such as that used by chip makers. Nanostructures, however, are too small for conventional semiconductor processes, so NanoOpto has devised some new techniques, details of which it has declined to reveal (see NanoOpto Thinks Small).

"It has been very easy to sell people on the concept. What has been hard has been to have the customers invest the engineering resources to make that happen," says Hubert Kostal, vice president of marketing.

The engineering is important because NanoOpto wants to find component partners, in some cases adding its nanostructures – grooves smaller than the wavelength of light – to other company's products. The structures are passive elements whose size creates unusual effects on light, allowing NanoOpto to control certain properties, such as phase.

Let's look at that product first. NanoOpto is teaming with SpectraSwitch Inc. to build the Lambda Processor, a variable optical attenuator (VOA) consisting of SpectraSwitch's liquid-crystal actuator with nanostructures placed on either side.

A liquid crystal is built between two layers of glass, so NanoOpto just adds its structures onto one side of each glass layer. The result is a VOA one-third the size of others on the market – small enough that it could be integrated with a laser, Kostal says.

At OFC, NanoOpto is also presenting a paper describing a tunable filter built on similar principles, adding nanostructures to a liquid crystal cell.

NanoOpto also announced that it's building isolators – one-way mirrors that prevent light from reflecting back into a laser – with Integrated Photonics Inc., a company that makes Faraday rotators out of garnet stones. The rotators are a key component in isolators.

Typical isolators consist of a garnet flanked by polarizers, which NanoOpto replaces with – you guessed it – polarizing nanostructures.

"We take the garnet they manufacture and we directly put nanostructures on the surface. Then you dice the piece of garnet and you have your isolators," Kostal says. Again, the idea is to make the isolators smaller and less expensive.

Several garnet manufacturers were interested in this idea, but NanoOpto chose to work with fellow New Jerseyites 10 miles away, making it easy for the companies' engineering teams to collaborate.

The company's work with Integrated Photonics is just starting, but the VOAs developed with SpectraSwitch began sampling this week.

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

For up-to-date information about the coming OFC Conference, please visit Light Reading’s Unauthorized OFC Preview Site.

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User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 12:25:04 AM
re: NanoOpto Gains Traction
what a joke ... Spectraswitch is going under, their technology never worked, what a choice of partner ... big bulky VOAs with below average performance and the worst liquid crystal yields in the industry. Come on LR ! you are losing your edge
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 12:24:57 AM
re: NanoOpto Gains Traction
SpectraSwitch is a joke, along with many many many other optical switch manufacturers claiming new and good technologies for making optical switches, surface and bulk MEMS, liquid crystal, solid-state, magneto-optics, waveguide, and etc. They all try to make optical cross-connect. It is exceedingly difficult to make them having good performance. When the going gets tough, they all become makers of VOA and DGE. It is the best they can do! Trust me, I can attenuate light better than them. What people wants at the end is an optical cross-connect switch, not more ways to make VOA's and DGE's.

User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 12:24:49 AM
re: NanoOpto Gains Traction
Are they solve the liquid crystal common draw back?
1. speed limited at ms range, too slow for switch. unless you use feroelectric or other special material, stability would be a problem, not mention contamination.
2. working temp range is very narrow, unless you put it on TE module (large package)
3. polarization and light leakage. the extinction ratio usually is not that high
4. fatigue factor. always on/always off may have problem. LC for display is usually refreshed all the time.
what is the application? what kind of switch is? where is going to be used? required always on? Is it required to be fast response?
5. the life of LC is not 25 years for sure....hardly see it for 10 (polymeric material... someone may waant to show me a 10 year old display...after use? what is extinction ratio after 10 years .... standard LC display warranttee is 1 year with extension of 3 years.... ),,, may be they got new type of LC....that would be something,,,

User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 12:24:34 AM
re: NanoOpto Gains Traction
Hubert Kostal (VP of Marketing @ NanoOpto) was the previous VP of Marketing @ SpectraSwitch. What do you think - substance or non-event hype?

Get real.

PS also knew him at Bell Labs; not impressed
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 12:24:21 AM
re: NanoOpto Gains Traction
You, my friend, sound like a frustrated scientist who was never able to raise funds and participate on this grand experiment called the optical network...too bad you are so very much ill-informed about others who have succeeded.
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 12:22:29 AM
re: NanoOpto Gains Traction

I'm writing a story about the two companies collaboration for Small Times (

Would you care to elaborate on why you think their effort is flawed? And can you tell me who you are, qualifications, etc?
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 12:22:26 AM
re: NanoOpto Gains Traction
From Bell Lab to marketing? Hem.....
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