17 Jun 2008
An enterprising scientist has integrated two existing products into a sub-nanosecond electro-optical system, removing a hurdle from the path of researchers in the field.
What is NISP Research Projects' area of business?
NISP Research Projects, located in Virginia, US, provides advanced electro-optic products and imaging solutions for researchers and OEMs. "At present it is a very small company – I am running it by myself and hire contractors as and when necessary," NISP's Sergei Nikitin told optics.org.
What were the origins of the company?
"NISP originated when I realized that some of the products I used in my research had great potential (and marketing advantage) if they could be integrated together, rather than sold separately. As an example, consider sub-nanosecond electro-optics. One can buy a very fast (50-100 ps switch times) Pockels cell from one company, but you cannot buy a high-voltage driver from the same manufacturer that could switch voltage that fast. It is possible, however, to get a high-voltage driver delivering 5 kV/150 ps electrical pulses at multi-kHz rates from a different company – but then integration of this driver with the Pockels cell is your problem."
Nikitin successfully integrated these two products into a single unit, and found that this combined package made it possible to get interesting experimental results on laser-plasma interaction, where the ability to form sub-nanosecond optical fronts appeared to be critical.
He then realized that perhaps other researchers could benefit from the solution too. "That's how NISP Research Projects was started. I talked to both manufacturers of the products that I was integrating together, and they felt that this was a win-win situation for them and allowed me to advertise their products, integrated into a single package, at CLEO 2008."
What technical challenges had to be overcome?
The original integration process was not difficult from a mechanical point of view, according to Nikitin. The problem is to ensure compatibility of the chosen electro-optics with the high-voltage driver. "Most important is to know how exactly the assembly should behave, and how to troubleshoot it if something goes wrong," he commented. "For example, in certain cases, but not always, adding of ballast resistors may be required. It is also important is to make sure that Pockels cell design is adequate for sub-nanosecond switch time."
What products does NISP Research Projects sell?
"Currently, there is only one product that can be considered as an integrated package, a sub-nanosecond electro-optical system. This is an all-solid-state, high-voltage low-impedence pulse generator integrated with an electro-optical modulator. I also offer other high-voltage drivers for OEM customers, assuming that OEM customers interested in these products already have electro-optics of their choice. NISP Research Projects offers technical expertise and help to complete the integration."
Nikitin is sourcing high-voltage pulsers from a European company. "They have really state-of-the-art products, but limited expertise in electro-optics. As a result, they do not provide a complete electro-optical (EO) package. We offer help with this last step, the integration of these pulsers with compatible EO modulators so that the end user need not worry about electrical compatibility issues, driver overheating etc."
What application areas does NISP Research target?
There is a broad variety of applications were sub-nanosecond switch times are necessary, including pulse slicing and optical contrast improvements. "As energy per pulse goes higher and higher, requirements for optical contrast improvements become more strict," noted Nikitin. "With sub-nanosecond switch times one can clean contrast with much greater precision. In addition, driving Pockels cell with sub-nanosecond pulses makes it possible to reduce unwanted effects like acoustic ringing or electrical arching. Another application is to form a nanosecond pulse that has a very fast (100 ps or even faster) rising edge. This could be of interest for people doing laser fusion, for example."
What are your future plans?
"I am not going to quit doing scientific research and switch over to business completely. But there are few more companies that, in my opinion, could benefit if its products are integrated by NISP Research Projects. Since my primary research interests are in the field of quantum electronics, I think that I have an idea what other researchers may need, and a clear understanding of what could (and should) be done to help them from a technical point of view."
Funding: The company is privately funded.
NISP Research Projects
PO Box 89
Newington, VA 22122, USA
Tel/fax +1 800 647 7110
Sales and marketing:
Tel/fax +1 800 NISP-110 ext. 1
Tel/fax +1 800 NISP-110 ext. 2