NanoOpto stays on track despite
hard times, releases new products

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Oct. 21, 2002 — With no need to rely on federal grants or contracts, and already making money off sample sales of its light beam management subcomponents, NanoOpto Corp., of Somerset, N. J., is pressing ahead with new offerings — integrated layers of two or more of its present products, plus new phase management devices.

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Staying on track is big news in today’s economic climate. “Our solutions are real and are here now,” said Barry Weinbaum, NanoOpto’s chief executive. He expects engineering samples of the integrated devices to ship this quarter.

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The company’s subcomponents can be used in fiber optic networks, cell phones, video displays, miniature electronics or devices for sorting DNA molecules. Commercialization of nano-optic components requires a scalable, high-speed manufacturing process.

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The way to make structures that small has involved making desired patterns with an electron beam, hence the name “electron beam lithography.” But, based on 20 years of research by its principal founder and chairman, Stephen Chou at Princeton University, NanoOpto’s patented nano-imprint lithography provides the manufacturing speed and economy the communications industry needs, company officials believe.

The nano-imprinting process involves a technique for stamping a template into soft plastic, creating structures with features as small as six nanometers. That template is then used to manufacture NanoOpto’s devices.

In March the company introduced its first subcomponents — products that manipulate laser light in three different ways: one selects a single direction of light waves, another splits the beams and another puts the beams back together. The elements operate in structures with dimensions in the tens of nanometers to interact with transmitted light.

NanoOpto left its Princeton lab home in January and began to record revenues in June, though company officials are reluctant to release names of its 25 customers other than to say they are mainly optical component manufacturers from around the world.

Peter Bernstein, owner of Infonautics Consulting in Ramsey, N. J., has visited NanoOpto’s plant and likes what he has seen. “I do believe that the work that NanoOpto is doing, especially as they move toward integrated devices, is going to find applicability beyond the optical subcomponent space,” he said.

In addition to light beam management, optical networks need phase management devices. Light waves have two phases, somewhat like peaks and troughs of ocean waves that move toward the beach. As the beams transmit, they tend to get out of phase. NanoOpto’s phase management devices will true up the light beams as they travel through an optical network.

The company is in the right slot in the high-tech sector, producing samples and custom designs, said Jason Marcheck, senior optical analyst with Pioneer Consulting in Boston. “Subcomponent vendors are somewhat insulated from the telecom downturn,” he said.

Signs to look for in determining whether a company is breaking out of the pack, he believes, would be a number of volume orders. That would certainly be a signal the technology is gaining acceptance from some of the large equipment vendors, as well as a sign that the stagnant telecom sector was coming back to life.


Company file: NanoOpto Corp.
(last updated Oct. 21, 2002)

NanoOpto Corp.

1600 Cottontail Lane
Somerset, N.J. 08873-5117

Princeton engineering professor Stephen Chou conducted research in nano-optics and nanomanufacturing that became the cornerstone of NanoOpto’s technology. In January 2000, Chou began discussions with Ed Zschau and Howard Lee to put the company together. Incorporated in June 2000, NanoOpto emerged from stealth mode in December 2001.

Fiber optics, photonics


Small tech-related products and services
NanoOpto builds optical subcomponents — subwavelength optical elements — using proprietary nano-imprint lithography techniques. The company’s manufacturing technologies, akin to those used in semiconductor development, allow for faster volume manufacturing, quicker prototyping, and lower overall cost for optical components. NanoOpto introduced its SubWave Phase Management product line in September. These components can either function alone or integrate with the company’s SubWave Polarization Beam Splitter, launched in March concurrently with the company’s opening of its New Jersey nanofabrication facility.


  • Ed Zschau: chairman and co-founder
  • Barry Weinbaum: president and chief executive officer
  • Howard Lee: chief operating officer and co-founder
  • Investment history
    In February 2001 the company closed a $16 million Series A round with participation from Bessemer Venture Partners, Morgenthaler Ventures, New Enterprise Associates and U.S. Trust’s Excelsior Venture Partners III. By April 2002, new financing from DFJ New England, DFJ Gotham, Harris & Harris Group Inc. and existing contributors brought NanoOpto’s total funding to $20 million. The company plans to launch a Series B round in late 2002 or early 2003. The round will be open to new investors.

    Barriers to market
    Maintaining adequate funding; successfully processing volume orders; functioning in a depressed telecom market.

    What keeps them up at night
    “Everything,” says CEO Barry Weinbaum. “Seriously — the state of the market and the timing of the recovery. Who are the survivors and is our company working with the right companies?”

    Why they’re in small tech
    “We’re in small tech because we are solving well-known business problems in profoundly new ways,” Weinbaum said, “because nanotech has such a broad range of applications.”


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  • Contact

  • URL:
  • Phone: 732-627-0808
  • Fax: 732-627-9886
  • E-mail: [email protected]
  • Recent news
    Anatomy of a small tech startup: Lab to ‘super stealth’ to product
    NanoOpto’s ready with new fab and three new optical products
    New investors complete NanoOpto round

    — Research by Gretchen McNeely


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