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Vector lines up £3M for laser commercialization

12 Jun 2024

UK startup looking to develop surface-coupling emitters operating at various wavelengths.

Vector Photonics, the University of Glasgow spin-out known for its work on photonic crystal surface-emitting lasers (PCSELs), says it has attracted nearly £3 million in additional funding.

Comprising around £1.7 million in equity investment and a further £1.3 million in research project awards, the cash will go towards further commercialization of the devices.

“Surface coupling lasers revolutionize semiconductor laser manufacture, enhancing performance in applications as diverse as next-generation datacenters, co-located optics, AI, metal and plastic printing, lidar, and optical sensing,” announced the firm.

CEO Neil Martin added: “This [funding] provides a strong financial base to continue the development and commercialization of the company’s unique and revolutionary, surface-emitting laser technologies.”

Into the blue and green
The latest equity support comes from four existing investors, namely Foresight WAE Technology (FWT) Funds, the UK Innovation & Science Seed Fund (UKI2S), Equity Gap, and Scottish Enterprise.

And the new research funding reflects two projects. The first, called “FRONTIERS”, is provided via UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI’s) “Future Telecoms Mission”. Aimed at using PCSELs for free-space optical communications, it is worth £670,000 and was originally announced in February.

The second research effort, called “GRAPHICS”, comes from Innovate UK and is worth £600,000. The collaboration with the University of Glasgow aims to develop gallium nitride (GaN) material processing expertise.

“This could lead to blue and green lasers that consume 70 per cent less power than equivalent LEDs,” Vector suggests, with potential applications in augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) headset displays.

2D grating
Invented by Glasgow researchers Richard Taylor, David Childs, and Richard Hogg, PCSELs are similar to vertical-cavity surface-emitting lasers (VCSELs), in that they emit light from the top surface of the semiconductor stack - making them easy to package and incorporate into conventional electronic assemblies and PCBs.

However, Vector says that they can also be fabricated to emit much more power than is typically possible with VCSELs, as well as at a more diverse range of wavelengths.

“Our PCSELs produce the speed performance of edge-emitting lasers (EELs) and VCSELs, whilst their tested and packaged cost is 50 per cent that of EELs and they deliver over ten times the power of VCSELs,” claims Martin on the company’s web site.

Those advantages arise from a two-dimensional grating structure inside the PCSELs that scatters light linearly, in plane, and orthogonally, out of plane.

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