Optical components

ASIP Connects Quantum Dots

ASIP Inc. is hoping to score some breakthroughs in using quantum dots to make lasers, based on a $2.5 million research contract awarded by the Dutch government (see ASIP Lands $2.5M).

The funding from SenterNovem, an organization in the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, continues work from a previous grant awarded to ASIP subsidiary ThreeFive Photonics B.V. that expired in April. ASIP acquired ThreeFive earlier this year and applied to the Dutch government to continue the research (see Survival of the Smallest).

There's no target product tied to the funding; rather, the money is going towards general improvement of laser performance. Various small improvements to manufacturing processes are included in the research, and some of those could emerge within six to 18 months, says Mike Decelle, ASIP CEO.

The more glamorous quantum-dot work will take longer. "We're looking at another three to five years before quantum dots move to the level of manufacturability and reliability" to become commercial products, Decelle says.

Quantum dots (they look more like pyramids than dots) are nanostructures that have the potential to produce lasers that perform well at high temperatures. This would save the cost of adding a cooling element to the laser.

The tricky part is in materials growth -- creating the dots on a wafer. Zia Laser Inc. has made headway along those lines, presenting a 2003 paper at OFC describing quantum-dot lasers operating at 100° C (see Dotty Lasers Draw Investment).

"Quantum dots are definitely a viable technology," says Chris Wiggins, Zia's market analyst and quality manager. "The growth of the dots is extremely uniform and very predictable and has no effect on yield at all."

The bigger question is whether it's worth it to make quantum-dot lasers for telecom. Zia has shifted away from that market, Wiggins says -- hardly a surprise, given the number of optics companies taking detours into more promising areas such as medical instrumentation (see Startups Call 911 and Management Buyouts Blossom).

Then there's the fact that uncooled laser technology continues to advance without the benefit of quantum dots. JDS Uniphase Corp. (Nasdaq: JDSU; Toronto: JDU) officials previously stated they can get Distributed Feedback (DFB) Lasers to operate at 110° C, and Mitsubishi Corp. claims to have gotten 10-Gbit/s DFB lasers to operate at 120° C. Even ASIP itself had its own 10-Gbit/s uncooled electro-absorption modulated laser (EML) in the works before acquiring ThreeFive (see Mitsubishi Intros Direct-Modulated DFB, Startup Has an 'Uncool' Laser, and ASIP 10 Gig Runs Hot and Cold).

Aside from quantum dots, ASIP will be researching photonic bandgap structures, which use gratings to block certain wavelengths of light. Such a structure could be used in place of the mirror inside a laser, Decelle says.

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

Balet 12/5/2012 | 1:20:20 AM
re: ASIP Connects Quantum Dots Uncooled DFBs and EMLs are cool.
What about the supercheap and easy to couple VCSELs (uncooled and directly modulated)?
There are a few companies working on them as well.
Will DFBs be able to compete?
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