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PhotonVentures backs Eindhoven's MicroAlign to ease 'quantum bottleneck'

12 Jun 2024

Dutch startup closes €1M seed funding to accelerate commercialization of its fiber arrays for quantum computing.

MicroAlign, a spin-out from the Eindhoven University of Technology in The Netherlands, has closed a round of seed funding yielding €1 million in equity support.

Led by local backers DeepTechXL and PhotonVentures, the cash is intended to accelerate the commercialization of MicroAlign’s precision optical fiber arrays, which are set to be aimed at applications in datacoms and photonic quantum computing.

Every photon counts
Emerging from a research project funded by the Dutch Research Council, MicroAlign’s core technology is a micro-positioning system capable of aligning multiple optical fibers, and was shown by the firm at this year’s SPIE Photonics West technology exhibition.

Company CEO Simone Cardarelli said in a release announcing the seed funding that the technology could realize “exponential benefits” for quantum computing efficiency, where they believe the reduction of coupling losses still represents a “grand challenge”.

Even saving millidecibels of optical power can be crucial for such applications, wrote the company in a blog post earlier this year, with an automated solution for rotating fibers seen as something of a “holy grail” for manufacturers of polarization-maintaining (PM) fiber arrays.

“MicroAlign's fiber array product is a key enabling technology for quantum photonic computing applications, where every photon counts in the fiber-to-chip connection,” claims Cardarelli.

“At the same time, the technology trends driven by the growing demands for data traffic and AI computing show that low-loss optical interconnections are more and more a point of concern, opening a huge application opportunity for MicroAlign in the near future.”

CTO Marco Fattori added: “Over the past three years, MicroAlign has developed technology to manipulate optical fibers with unmatched precision, generating already four patents describing revolutionary approaches in the critical optical fiber alignment operation.

“This technology is based on the smallest fiber alignment actuator in the world and represents a groundbreaking solution for the industry. We are currently laser-focused on developing further our technology to realize ultra-high accuracy fiber arrays.”

Quantum bottleneck
The support for MicroAlign represents the latest photonics-focused investment from PhotonVentures, which said in April that it was aiming to assemble a €100 million fund by the end of this year.

Other recent recipients of its support include another Eindhoven spin-off in the form of MantiSpectra, and Enschede-based laser developer Brilliance, which secured €2 million in seed funding for its laser arrays aimed at augmented reality (AR) display applications.

Commenting on the latest investment decision, PhotonVentures general partner Ewit Roos said: “MicroAlign is the only company in Europe that has proven to meet the stringent requirements for fiber alignment in the still small but promising and already very demanding quantum photonic computing domain.

“With their excellent technology and the continuous focus on customer needs and delivery, I am convinced this MicroAlign team is ready to facilitate successfully the growth of this industry and other sectors that require ultra-low loss fiber coupling solutions.’’

Teska van Vuren, managing partner at DeepTechXL, added: “DeepTechXL shares MicroAlign’s vision to make an impact by solving one of the main technical bottlenecks for quantum photonic computers, [to] support MicroAlign in scaling up and becoming the number one in low coupling loss fiber arrays.”

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