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Forward Photonics spins out of TeraDiode with QCL focus

10 May 2017

Mid-wave infrared applications in mind for new Woburn company following Panasonic's recent acquisition of TeraDiode.

Forward Photonics (FP) has completed its spin-out from the high-power diode laser firm TeraDiode, following Panasonic’s acquisition of the latter in January this year.

Focused on producing mid-wave infrared (MWIR) sources based around quantum cascade laser (QCL) emitters, FP is claiming industry-leading power and brightness performance, thanks to the same wavelength beam combination (WBC) technology developed by TeraDiode’s founders and licensed from the Lincoln Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Based around a diffraction grating and precise laser alignment, the WBC technique enables power scaling with a combination of sources emitting at slightly different wavelengths.

Beam quality
One of the TeraDiode founders, Robin Huang, is now the CEO at FP, managing the company alongside VP of engineering Mike Cruz and program manager Jeff Shattuck.

Huang told optics.org that the venture-backed outfit currently has eight employees, and around 5000 square feet of office and manufacturing space in Woburn, including clean areas for optics and photonics components and processes.

The fledgling firm’s initial products include a 25 W laser based on beam-combined QCLs, with close to a diffraction-limited beam quality (a quoted M2 value of less than 1.5).

FP has also developed a 10 W air-cooled version of the laser, and says that the high-brightness system will be “game changing” in many applications, including stand-off detection, remote sensing, spotting gas leaks and spills, combustion and trace-gas detection, chemical analysis spectroscopy, ranging, interferometry, metrology, and even materials processing.

Compact packages
Both the 25W and 10W sources are also extremely compact, with the lower-power version measuring 1.35 x 3.6 x 6.2 inches; the 25W package is only marginally larger, at 2.4 x 4.5 x 7 inches.

“The FP technology and team have made substantial progress in recent years,” said Huang, with the company targeting military applications initially.

Other QCL developers – most notably Daylight Solutions – have been working closely with the US military on the development of advanced infrared countermeasure (IRCM) systems based around the unusual emission wavelengths that can be accessed with QCL technology.

Right now, Huang won’t be drawn on exactly which military applications FP’s lasers are most likely to be used for, although he says that FP has already developed strong partnerships with major defense industry contractors who are working with FP to integrate the QCL-based laser modules into various platforms.

“We are excited about our opportunity to operate as an independent company, as the market's interest in our products is rapidly growing,” said the CEO in a company release.

FP’s backers could be looking towards Daylight for inspiration in the area of QCLs – in March this year the San Diego company was acquired by the Italy-headquartered defense giant Leonardo in a $150 million deal.

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