Startup Integrates Laser Management

Aegis Semiconductor is working on a special coating that will enable VCSELs to run more efficiently

January 2, 2001

3 Min Read
Startup Integrates Laser Management

Aegis Semiconductor Inc. says it has found a way to boost the power management capabilities of optical lasers.

The year-old startup, based in Lawrence, Mass., and Princeton, N.J., is working on a special thin-film semiconductor coating that will be used to monitor and eventually control multiple arrays of vertical cavity surface emitting lasers (VCSELs). These arrays are increasingly being used in transceivers for short-range optical links (see Laser Blazers).

Aegis's coating is a semitransparent substance (a secret formula) designed to be applied directly to glass or plastic optical components, including VCSELs. The coating absorbs some of the laser's light, a percentage of which is made into a photocurrent, which is then monitored separately. The end result is that Aegis can keep track of the power that's being consumed by multiple VCSELs. (These VCSEL arrays in turn are used in option cards by vendors of optical crossconnects, switches, and other gear.)

Until now, vendors of VCSELs and optical subsystems haven't had an easy way to monitor power consumption in VCSEL arrays, according to Aegis officials. The company is targeting these developers as its primary customers. CEO and founder Matthias Wagner says prototypes are in the hands of some prospects, and general shipment is slated for later this year.

The company is setting up a special optical system design and integration unit. Larry Domash, a leader in the field of component integration, was recently hired to head this group.

Aegis won't say what materials it's using to create its special coating. But Wagner points out that Aegis's coating will differ from the coatings, such as gallium arsenide, currently used to "grow" VCSELs. "VCSEL materials are generally made of crystalline layers that must be grown extremely carefully and on very specific substrates to work well," he notes. In contrast, Aegis will use different, more economical materials.

The first application of Aegis's coating will be for arrays of 850-nanometer lasers. Eventually, the company says, it will start applying the coating to 980-, 1310-, and 1550-nm lasers. Aegis also plans to use the coating to direct the alignment of lasers in optical switches -- an application that today calls for complex and costly MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical systems). Specifically, the coating will report any weakening or drifting in the lasers and be used to activate optional lasers to take their place.

Whether Aegis can succeed remains to be seen. The world of optical components is burgeoning with startups, and controversies over various approaches and materials are still raging.

Aegis's management group originated at the Princeton University Center for Photonics and Optoelectronic Materials. In addition to Wagner and Domash, the team includes CTO Eugene Ma, whose career at Princeton was preceded by a stint as a consultant.

Aegis has a round of seed financing from YankeeTek, the incubator founded by Howard Anderson of the Yankee Group consultancy. But Wagner says it's actively seeking a round of venture financing, chiefly to cover the costs of hiring more engineers and opening a fabrication facility in Massachusetts.

-- Mary Jander, senior editor, Light Reading

Subscribe and receive the latest news from the industry.
Join 62,000+ members. Yes it's completely free.

You May Also Like