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NL Nanosemiconductor acquires Zia Laser

05 Dec 2006

Combined entity plans to deliver advanced quantum dot semiconductor laser technology.

NL Nanosemiconductor, the German firm that specializes in quantum-dot structures and epitaxy, has acquired its US rival Zia Laser.

Both companies have been pioneers in the emerging field of III-V quantum-dot laser technology, but have yet to find any lucrative commercial applications for their MBE-grown devices.

The deal is said by NL Nanosemiconductor to have full board and investor approval. Zia CEO Kenneth Westrick will leave the company, while the US company's operations will be consolidated at the NL Nanosemiconductor headquarters in Dortmund.

Formed in June 2001 as a spin-out of the University of New Mexico (UNM), Zia Laser had, like NL Nanosemiconductor, initially looked to target the market for optical telecommunication network components.

Now, however, the merged company is looking to unlock the potential future markets of optical interconnects and optical clocks for high-performance computing.

"This solution will open markets for III-V optoelectronics to a large audience moving forward," said Jürgen Kurb, the CEO at NL Nanosemiconductor, of the potential offered by quantum dots.

"In addition, applications such as optical imaging and medical treatment will benefit from specific features of quantum-dot technology, particularly the broad gain spectrum and unique wavelength range of 1100-1300 nm."

Kurb is referring to the compact sources of coherent infrared light that are required for a relatively new imaging technique called optical coherence tomography (OCT), which can be used for early detection of cancer and also in ophthalmology.

Zia Laser, of which operating chief Petros Varangis is a co-founder, has been offering a commercial quantum-dot product in the form of a 20 mW mode-locked laser operating at 1200-1340 nm.

This laser was first designed for optical networking, although Zia believed that it could also be used in optical clock signal distribution for high-speed microprocessing. However, the company did not have any major production orders for this laser.

According to Kurb, NL Nanosemiconductor has small production orders for its leading product - also a mode-locked laser - and is expecting its sales to show rapid growth next year as the laser gains some more design wins with customers.

Kurb also told compoundsemiconductor.net that, following the acquisition of Zia, NL Nanosemiconductor would expand its epitaxial growth capacity, although it is not going to transfer Zia's MBE machine across the Atlantic to Germany. Instead, the reactor will remain in the UNM building that Zia had been renting from the university.

NL Nanosemiconductor derives the first part of its name from the initials of its co-founder Nikolai Ledentsov, one of the leading proponents of quantum-dot technology.

Ledentsov was previously chief scientific officer at the Dortmund-based company, but he now performs research and development activity for the firm separately.

With Ledentsov no longer on board, and the company now looking to supply devices and modules rather than epiwafers, Kurb says that NL Nanosemiconductor will shortly reveal a new company identity.

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