NanoOpto unveils new optical products

Mar. 22, 2005 — NanoOpto Corp. is the latest nanotech startup to show that just because you’ve got the prefix “nano” in your name, it doesn’t mean you can’t roll out real product. The Somerset, N.J.-based maker of nano-optimized optical components recently announced a pair of new optical devices. While the announcements won’t necessarily catapult it into the first tier of optical device makers, the company hopes they could well nudge the firm decidedly onto the optical map.

One product is an infrared filter used in digital cameras. The other is a component, known as a waveplate, used in CD and DVD drives. Although they are aimed at different markets, the value proposition of each is the same: engineer nanostructures in the core component of the device in order to increase quality and eliminate unnecessary additional circuitry.

The filter, known as an infrared (IR) cut-off filter, is the easier example. It goes between the lens and the image sensor in a digital camera and, like its name suggests, filters out the infrared light so only visible light hits the image sensor.

But nature doesn’t provide a stark line of demarcation between visible and infrared light. Rather, the shift from red to infrared is gradual and infrared filters invariably filter out some visible red, too. Additional circuitry is ordinarily required to improve the red portion of the spectrum — but that creates other problems, such as additional “noise” in the photo. NanoOpto’s filter uses engineered nanostructures to make a sharp cutoff between infrared and red, eliminating the need for such circuitry and the image artifacts it creates.

The other product announced, dubbed the AQWP540+ waveplate, is an optical pickup component for a CD or DVD drive. Like the infrared filter, it is designed to reduce the need for additional circuitry that compensates for errors by making fewer errors in the first place. NanoOpto has engineered the waveplate to be “achromatic” — that is, it accommodates lasers of multiple wavelengths and tolerates more drift than traditional waveplates.

The company aims to break into what are already price-competitive markets for both products by, in the words of marketing and sales VP Hubert Kostal, “offering a superior product at basically the same price (as existing products).”

“We see each of these as entry points to build relationships that will allow us to more easily integrate devices,” Kostal said. He added that NanoOpto is doing its own manufacturing at its in-house nanofabrication facility.


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