By Abby Proch, former editor
In a move to boost semiconductor production, the Canadian government announced it will invest $240 million between its Strategic Innovation Fund and National Research Council (NFC). The $90 million worth of NRC funds will provide the Canadian Photonics Fabrication Centre with much-needed upgrades, and the remaining $150 million will “reinforce Canada’s domestic development and supply of semiconductors.” The government has yet to award the money and is still soliciting business proposals in the key areas of research, commercialization, and manufacturing.
For its part, the U.S. Department of Energy has announced a possible $150 million in funding for those in academia, national labs, nonprofits, and private companies to develop clean energy technologies, next-gen batteries, and carbon capture and storage solutions. Specifically, the funding opportunity seeks those who can support tenets of the existing Energy Earthshots Initiative, including the Hydrogen Shot, the Long Duration Storage Shot, and the Carbon Negative Shot, which reduce costs and increase durability of producing and storing energy as well as removing and storing carbon dioxide.
In Europe, the University of Lund in Sweden is eyeing COF, or covalent organic framework, as a key component in turning carbon dioxide into fuel. COF absorbs sunlight efficiently and when joined with a catalytic complex, it’s also successful at converting carbon dioxide to carbon monoxide. Researchers with the University of Lund in Sweden relied on laser spectroscopy to “map” the process, hoping it could be the key to using solar energy to take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turn it into fuel. While the result is far off, researchers are excited by their discovery that photons with blue light can create “long-lived electrons with high energy levels” and charge COF with electrons to complete a reaction.
Despite the widespread sanctions instituted in Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, IPG Photonics is moving ahead with operations at its production facility outside Moscow. The decision — coupled with by an adjusted sales guidance for 2022 — has caused the company’s stock to drop about 10 percent. However, sanctions have prompted leaders to divert more work to US and Germany manufacturing sites. IPG Photonics was founded in 1991 in Russia, but its current headquarters is located in Oxford, Massachusetts. According to a report by Optics.org, the fiber laser firm’s Russian facility provides “critical components and test equipment to IPG’s US and German operations, sells finished lasers to customers in Russia, and also supplies the firm’s Chinese subsidiary with a portion of the finished lasers sold to customers in China.”
In other business news, several lidar firms are posting big sales — but even bigger even losses — in 2021. Optics.org reported that Velodyne, Luminar, Aeva, Aurora, and Ouster, many of whom specialize in ADAS and autonomous vehicle applications, delivered financial results recently that indicate a hurried pace toward commercialization, with most seeing promising increases in sales but also sizeable expenditures for operations. Velodyne is the only firm among the five to report a downturn in sales, dropping 35 percent to $61.9 million for 2021. Other losses feel similarly staggering, like Aurora posting an annual operating loss of $731 million. But appearances are bit deceiving as, Aurora has recently secured $1.8 billion upon completion of its special purpose acquisitions company (SPAC) listing in November. Optics.org reports that most are expecting continued sales figures to offset their operations costs.
And finally in business, two photonics firms have entered agreements with GlobalFoundries to speed up their development processes using the GF Fotonix, an electronic/photonics design platform for simulation and analysis. Cadence Design Systems announced their collaboration with GlobalFoundries as a way to speed up silicon photonics IC development for a variety of markets including communications, automotive, IoT, and aerospace systems. Xanadu is worked with GlobalFoundries to achieve “high-volume manufacturing of its photonic chips for universal and fault-tolerant quantum computers.” According to the release, the monolithic platform combines “differentiated 300mm photonics features and 300GHz-class RF-CMOS on a silicon wafer.”
In laser applications, scientists with the Shibaura Institute of Technology have introduced a novel laser-based approach for measuring the structural integrity of concrete. The method uses a non-destructive, non-contact Nd:YAG pulsed laser method wherein laser-induced plasma sends shockwaves throughout a concrete target. Laser light reflected back yields a Doppler shift to “reveal the amplitude and frequency of vibrations.” A spot producing a Rayleigh wave is indicated as having a defect. Researchers say the method is faster than existing methods because fewer measurements are required.
With the goal of reducing waste and improving quality control during laser metal deposition, the TopCladd project is employing optical coherence tomography (OCT) to monitor wire-based laser metal deposition (w-LMD). The quality control measure, typically used in the life sciences, has been integrated with the processing head of the laser in a way that allows the OCT system to piggyback on existing optics without getting in the way of laser functions. Laser developer Trumpf signed a technology transfer agreement with the TodCladd researchers’ tech center, Fraunhofer ILT, to accelerate LMD techniques for commercial use.
And finally, moving along at its intended pace, the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) has successfully melded 18 dots of starlight into one as part of its alignment phase. The 18 dots — individual images captured by each of the telescope’s 18 primary mirror segments — were stacked on top of one another during the image stacking phase, in which photons from each mirror segment were directed to the same spot on the telescope’s NIRCam detector. Next in its aligning lineup, the JWST will begin making tiny adjustments in its mirrors and sharpening its captured images, called “coarse phasing.”