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Intel backs KMLabs' ultrafast laser development

04 Nov 2015

University of Colorado spin-out is working on ultrashort-pulse and extreme ultraviolet sources.

Kapteyn-Murnane Laboratories, the University of Colorado spin-out better known as KMLabs, says it has won investment from Intel Capital that will be used to develop and commercialize innovative new laser sources for industrial applications.

The $5.5 million series A round - first revealed in a US Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) filing last month - also featured the local Colorado Impact Fund as well as company management, and comes a remarkable 21 years after the company was founded by Colorado physics professors (and husband-and-wife team) Henry Kapteyn and Margaret Murnane.

Short-listed for a Prism Award in both 2011 and 2012, KMLabs specializes in high-performance lasers – and more specifically ultrafast sources based on both Ti:sapphire and fiber resonators. The company also sells a “tabletop” water-cooled extreme ultraviolet (EUV) source that uses high harmonic generation to convert the ultrashort pulses into wavelengths between 13 nm and 47 nm (see video below).

The new funding is set to help KMLabs build out its manufacturing capabilities and accelerate product development efforts for new ultrashort-pulse and EUV sources aimed at both cutting-edge scientific applications and commercial developers of laser systems.

In a company statement announcing the series A funding, KMLabs said: “The company is working to put state-of-the-art ultrafast research tools into the hands of leading scientists worldwide and has gained the attention of system manufacturers in several industries who hope to partner with the company to commercialize their next-generation technologies. This investment will enable the business to begin expansion into one or more attractive commercial markets.”

Co-founder Henry Kapteyn added: “For broader appeal, as these systems become more powerful, they must also become more flexible, user-friendly, and reliable.”

More commercial portfolio
Revealed at this week’s Intel Capital Global Summit taking place in San Diego, California, the investment by the chip giant’s venture wing is far from its first foray into optics and photonics – although its previous deals have tended to be confined to the optical communications sector.

Intel Capital, which announced 11 new venture agreements totaling $22 million at the event, says that its cash will go towards strengthening KMLabs’ engineering capabilities and "building out a more commercially focused portfolio and manufacturing infrastructure".

Intel’s corporate VP of global supply management Robert Bruck said: “Intel’s investment in KMLabs is a great example of cooperation between Semiconductor Research Corporation (SRC), universities, and industry.”

He added that the further commercialization of ultrafast and EUV sources would give semiconductor equipment suppliers access to technologies needed to create the new kinds of tools needed for advanced wafer processing while maintaining maximum yields in future generations of chip production.

Ryan Kirkpatrick, a partner with the Colorado Impact Fund, listed a raft of potential applications outside of semiconductor processing. He said: “The laser technology that KMLabs has developed has very attractive commercial applications that could meaningfully benefit the semiconductor fabrication, nanotechnology, ophthalmology, and the bio-imaging industries.”

KMLabs corporate video: the XUUS4 tabletop X-ray generator

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