Optical components

Has Lightwave Micro Found a Buyer?

The ghost of Lightwave Microsystems may be finally put to rest.

Sources say startup NeoPhotonics Corp. is in negotiations to purchase the assets of the shuttered company. NeoPhotonics officers and board members did not return calls for comment before press time.

NeoPhotonics is developing planar optical components including splitters and amplifiers. Part of the company's expertise lies in thick-film substrates, applied to wafers using a proprietary process called Laser Reactive Deposition. A NeoPhotonics subsidiary called NanoGram Corp. is seeking ways to apply the technology outside the telecom industry.

Based in Fremont, Calif., NeoPhotonics has collected more than $35 million in funding this year (see NeoPhotonics Gets $35M) and Ardesta Invests in NeoPhotonics).

Lightwave Micro was shut down late in September (see Obituary: Lightwave Microsystems) after trying to stabilize its business by focusing on Arrayed Waveguide Gratings (AWGs). While it's unclear what the terms of the sale would be, NeoPhotonics is probably getting a bargain, considering the fact that the recent sale of Agere Systems' (NYSE: AGR/A) optical component business garnered $40 million (see TriQuint to Acquire Agere's Optics).

Lightwave Micro had begun life on the polymer bandwagon, hoping to fashion thermo-optic switches from exotic materials. As the optical boom faded, then-CEO John Midgley steered Lightwave Micro towards AWGs, emphasising the ease of integrating them with other components.

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

Drew Lanza 12/4/2012 | 9:24:50 PM
re: Has Lightwave Micro Found a Buyer? Craig:

Good article! While I can't comment on any deals the company may or may not have in the works, I'd like to correct two things in your article:

1. The company did not focus on AWG's. It focused on integrated subsystems based around multi-function PLC's. I.e. we would integrate AWG's with VOA's (or other components) on a single optical chip and then wrap software and packaging around that and sell it as a subsystem.

There were a lot of AWG vendors. Lightwave was unique in its ability to ship multi-function PLC's as their customers would attest. The Lightwave part that I thought was the coolest was a complete OADM on a chip. It had AWG's to split and combine the light, switches to add and drop channels and VOA's to balance the channels. All on a single chip. 16 channels. Pretty neat!

2. While we did originally focus on polymer materials, our focus was not on thermo-optic, but on electro-optic polymer materials (and even on optic-optic polymer materials using a X3 effect). We couldn't get it to work. The switches and VOA's that Lightwave makes are based on a thermo-optic effect. It's too bad. The electro-optic materials (which somebody will figure out someday) would have allowed for much greater density and vastly improved performance over the clunky thermo-optic switches.

Drew Lanza
Dr. Darklight 12/4/2012 | 9:24:47 PM
re: Has Lightwave Micro Found a Buyer? I heard Neophootonics is buying all of LMS's "good stuff" for $2 million. Geez and it only cost $150 million to create. I also heard that NeoPhotonics is buying the LMS conventional technology because they can't get their stuff to work well. Any other rumors?

OpticalLogic 12/4/2012 | 9:24:40 PM
re: Has Lightwave Micro Found a Buyer? ---------
I heard Neophootonics is buying all of LMS's "good stuff" for $2 million.

Can anyone tell me what are the LMS's "good stuff"?
Bill Johnson 12/4/2012 | 9:24:37 PM
re: Has Lightwave Micro Found a Buyer? Drew,

It is refreshing to see someone reply to LR who actually knows about the inner workings of a particular company and is not afraid to use their real name.

I would like to speak with you to discuss what you currently have going. I can be reached at (972) 770-7917. Look forward to hearing from you.


Bill Johnson
piper 12/4/2012 | 9:24:36 PM
re: Has Lightwave Micro Found a Buyer? I've heard that yields are pathetic when trying to make monolithically integrated VMUXs and OADMs in low-index silica (ie. ~ 1 good chip for every 100 wafers processed). Can anyone confirm this? It doesn't sound like a promising business case! If this is the case, why would anyone want to buy LMS?
Drew Lanza 12/4/2012 | 9:24:24 PM
re: Has Lightwave Micro Found a Buyer? Piper:

Not true. Yields were excellent (on the order of traditional semiconductor manufacturing) and performance was superb. Of course, it took a couple of years to get to that point and it wasn't easy. Lightwave's parts now outperform filters (in channel counts > 8) in both cost and specs.

Drew Lanza
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