NanoOpto Gains Traction
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
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