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Wideband laser revolutionises spectral imaging 

In an ipXperience so disruptive that it falls outside of ipXchange’s current roster of component type icons, Guy chats to Cees Links, CEO of SuperLight Photonics. Despite being an industry legend that helped to turn Wi-Fi into a Global standard for wireless communication, Cees’ latest endeavour relates to photonics, presenting the World’s first portable wideband laser for full-colour, coherent light measurement with a single shine. 

After an initial discussion of the limits of Moore’s Law, and how photonics helps to overcome this technological hurdle, Cees explains the practical differences, advantages, and disadvantages between photonics and electronics. 

On the plus side, the lightness – all puns intended – of photons means that far less energy is required in photonic systems when compared to electronics systems. The physical limitations – such as resistance – of shuttling electrons through ever-smaller circuits can be overcome when switching to a photonic basis. 

The disadvantage of this, however, is that photons have no charge. Unlike electrons, which travel wherever charge and energy differentials direct them – such as in a wire or between electrodes – light is far more difficult to control. Other than in the simplest of optical fibres, where they are channelled using total internal reflection, photons go wherever they like. This is where photonics comes into play, integrated with standard electronics technology to enhance already existing systems, and to build new ones. 

The first day-to-day application to adopt this technology is fibre internet, but Cees expects to see developments in this technology to provide faster, lower-power, lower-heat data communications between semiconductor devices and more complex photonic systems. With the amount of water and energy being wasted simply to cool applications like data centres, photonics can revolutionise these industries from both a sustainability and a technological standpoint. 

Photonics can also be used for analysis and measurement applications. This is done by measuring absorption and reflection at certain frequencies, or changes in coherence or polarisation, which can be used to determine material properties, for example. Photonics used in this way can be used to detect substances, contamination, pollution, etc., but powerful light sources are required for the best performance of this type of testing – as Cees put it, “more light, more insight.”  

For years, laser technology was monochromatic (single-colour) though extremely powerful, meaning that limited information could be gleaned using a single laser source – more colour means more information. The key innovation from SuperLight Photonics is the development of a wideband laser that does not use tuning or scanning laser technology – in a single shine, the output covers a smoothly continuous wide frequency range from 450-1500 nm at 12 W (average). 

This enables a whole new level of light-based measurement, particularly for bio-medical imaging, food quality management, and industrial metrology, but also for applications like precision farming in combination with lidar technology. With a single light source, engineers now have access to a broad spectrum of coherent light, with a low enough power consumption to be used in battery operated devices. This enables better, faster light-based measurements that provide far more insight into the objects under the spotlight. 

Check out SuperLight Photonics’ first laser device, the SLP-1000, by following the link to the board page below, where you can apply to evaluate the technology for use in a commercial application. 

Keep designing! 

Like what you saw? Here’s another photonics-related interview from ipXchange: Affordable cm-level navigation without GNSS: ANELLO redefines optical gyroscope technology

SuperLight Photonics SLP-100 Portable Wideband Laser (450-1500 nm

Want faster coherent-light-based measurements without the requirement for frequency scanning?

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