News | January 26, 2012

Photonics Innovators Honored With Prism Awards


Winners of the 2011 Prism Awards for Photonics Innovation were announced at a gala banquet last night (25 January) during SPIE Photonics West in San Francisco. Awards were presented by industry leaders in nine categories for photonics products that challenge conventional ideas, solve problems, and improve life through the generation and harnessing of light.

The Prism Awards for Photonics Innovation are sponsored by Photonics Media and SPIE. A panel of independent industry and academic experts evaluated nearly 100 entries, selecting the winners from among 28 finalists.

Winners and categories are:

  • PD-LD (Scientific lasers), for LabSource - VBG-stabilized dual laser source for use in shifted excitation Raman difference spectroscopy (SERDS). LabSource is based on the VBG-stabilized laser diodes with strictly controlled wavelength separation corresponding to the line width of the Raman bands. LabSource allows accurate and consistent subtraction of the fluorescence contribution from the Raman signal, enabling significantly better signal-to-noise ratio compared with the competing methods. It replaces costly tunable lasers that are the current state of the art in SERDS technology. LabSource is intended for bench-top applications, where its SERDs capabilities can be integrated with existing laboratory analytical equipment. Due to its small size and ease of set up, it can be used within multiple setups within a lab. It is also well-suited to any application in which fluorescence impedes traditional single-source Raman spectroscopy analysis, such as life sciences applications, which require analysis of live tissue or organic matter.

  • Amplitude Systèmes (Industrial Lasers), for the Satsuma HE, the most advanced ultrafast fiber laser (providing high energy, high power, and high repetition rate) available on the market today. Ultrafast lasers are rapidly penetrating a growing number of industrial markets, such as eye surgery, medical device manufacturing, and semiconductor processing. The Satsuma laser is the answer to markets that require a high precision ultrafast tool that is reliable, industry-ready and affordable, providing high energy, high average power, and air cooling in a very small and turnkey package. It delivers ultra-short pulse duration (350 fs), high repetition rate (1 MHz or more) and high energy (up to 20 µJ) in a compact, and highly stable housing.

  • MERMEC (Detectors, Sensing, Imaging and Cameras), for T-Sight 5000, a system mounted to the front of high-speed trains that performs an in-depth inspection and analysis of tunnels and clearance profiles on railways, capturing image data of bridges, underpasses, poles, and other obstacles that may hinder the safe transport of rail passengers and cargo. Once image data are captured, the system can visually recreate 3D images of the railway infrastructure. T-Sight 5000 internal architecture integrates two different systems (clearance gauge measurement and tunnel wall inspection) sharing the same laser illuminating source. T-Sight 5000 is simply unique, being at the same time the smaller, lighter and most accurate system on the market.

  • Optotune (Optics and Optical Components), for the Laser Speckle Reducer (LSR), a breakthrough in miniaturization enabling speckle reduction in laser-based pico projectors. LSR is an extremely compact and low-cost solution for effectively reducing speckle contrast in laser illumination. While a traditional approach is to use rotating diffusers, the LSR uses electroactive polymers to oscillate a diffuser. Laser speckle is one of the biggest roadblocks that prevents lasers from becoming the standard for projection light sources. The grainy pattern of spots reduces the resolution and quality of projected images. Optotune's LSR effectively removes such laser speckle. It has a long life-time, is power-efficient, silent, vibration-free, and economical. This is also one of the first products worldwide to commercialize electroactive polymer technology. Optotune's laser speckle reducer is the ideal choice for application in laser projection displays, beam homogenizer, metrology, microscopy, interferometry, and lithography.

  • 89 North (Life Sciences and Biophotonics), for the Heliophor, an innovative light source for fluorescence imaging, provides a new alternative to arc lamps, metal halides, and LED light sources. The Heliophor is a pumped-phosphor light engine for quantitative fluorescence microscopy. As a light source for fluorescence imaging applications, the Heliophor provides a new alternative to arc lamps, metal halides, and LED light sources. With nine available wavelength modules, each system is user-configurable and produces ultra-stable output. The Heliophor features rapid switch times, digital shuttering and advanced triggering and control capabilities to rapidly interface with other system components and enable high-speed, multidimensional imaging. The Heliophor has ultrastable output and digital shuttering capabilities. Together, these features allow for high-speed, live cell imaging without the need for additional equipment (e.g., shutters, controllers, etc.). The Heliophor's stability and straightforward calibration system ensure that output intensity is consistent across measurements, allowing repeatable, truly quantitative fluorescent analysis.

  • Physical Optics Corporation (Defense and Security), for its Mobile ELISA-based Pathogen Detection (MEPAD), a portable, low-cost, plug-and-play USB-powered bio-hazard detection system. The Mobile ELISA-based Pathogen Detection system is based on a disposable microfluidic chip for multiple-threat detection and a highly sensitive portable microfluidic fluorescence measurement unit that also controls the flow of samples and reagents through the microfluidic channels of the chip. This innovative product addresses the need for real-time biohazard identification for first responders in the field and point-of-care specialists with a cost-efficient and automated implementation of ELISA-based process that currently requires analytical expertise and laboratory processing. The sample processing is fully contained within a chip with minimal risk of contamination. All processing steps are fully automated and controlled by a computer.

  • nanoplus (Green Photonics and Sustainable Energy), for the DFB laser at 3µm, operating reliably in more than 10,000 installations (including gas pipelines, power plants, airborne and satellite applications) worldwide. Tunable diode laser spectroscopy (TDLS) is a versatile technique for detection of molecular constituents in gas phase. There are many instruments detecting gases like CO, CO2, H2O, O2, NH3, SO2, and many more in the region between 760nm and 2.9µm. Our innovative DFB laser sources will now enable a new qualitative level of monitoring techniques using TDLS. Customers can now use their established know-how from existing gas measurement systems to develop new instruments for the detection of hydrocarbons in the 3µm to 3.5µm region. These sensors will comprise industrial process control systems for increased energy efficiency, improved product quality and pollutant reduction or also systems for flammable gas detection contributing to the well-being and safety of the population, for example, by preventing hazards from gas leaks, environmental monitoring or in healthcare systems.

  • WITec (Test, Measurement, Metrology), for its True Surface Microscopy, allowing the measurement of rough or inclined samples while maintaining the advantages of confocal imaging. True Surface Microscopy follows the surface topography with high precision, so that even rough or inclined samples always stay in focus while performing confocal (Raman) imaging. The core element of this revolutionary imaging mode is an integrated sensor for optical profilometry. Large-area topographic coordinates from the profilometer measurement can be precisely correlated with the large-area confocal Raman imaging data. This allows, for the first time, confocal Raman imaging along heavily inclined or very rough samples with the true surface held in constant focus while maintaining the highest confocality. With the new imaging mode, samples that had previously required extensive preparation in order to obtain a certain surface flatness can now be effortlessly and automatically characterized as they are. Complete system control and extensive data evaluation are integrated within the WITec Control and WITec Project software environment, guaranteeing renowned ease-of-use.

  • OEWaves (Other Light Sources), for the Ultra-Narrow Linewidth Laser, a small, robust, narrow linewidth semiconductor laser that will expand the range of advanced sensing and detection. OEwaves Ultra-Narrow Linewidth Laser Source, based on a high quality factor (Q) whispering gallery mode (WGM) micro-resonator, offers super-fine instantaneous and dynamic optical spectral linewidth of less than 300Hz and ultra-low phase/frequency noise in a small form factor. The laser is scalable to a variety of wavelengths in C and L bands. The unique design of the laser source is based on the self-injection locking of a suitable commercially available laser diode via a resonant optical feedback from a high-Q WGM micro-resonator. Its monolithically integrated approach along with micro-scale mass and volume make the laser virtually insensitive to environmental vibrations. The laser is suitable for a broad range of sensing, monitoring, and metrology applications where high resolution, high precision, and absolute accuracy are required.

Presenting the Prism awards were Tim Day (Daylight Solutions), Wellington Chadehumbe (Triumph Venture Capital), Michael Lebby (Translucent), Laura Smoliar (Peppertree Engineering), Mary Lou Jepsen (Pixel Qi), Mike Cumbo (IDEX), Rob Randelman (Halma), and Larry Marshall (Southern Cross Venture Partners).

About SPIE
SPIE, the international society for optics and photonics, was founded in 1955 to advance light-based technologies. Serving more than 180,000 constituents from 168 countries, the Society advances emerging technologies through interdisciplinary information exchange, continuing education, publications, patent precedent, and career and professional growth. SPIE annually organizes and sponsors approximately 25 major technical forums, exhibitions, and education programs in North America, Europe, Asia, and the South Pacific. SPIE provided over $2.5M in support of education and outreach programs in 2011. For more information, visit