Open Competition 3 - Electronics and Photonics
Development of Solid State Long Wave Infra-Red (LWIR) Laser
Develop a novel solid-state laser technology that can operate at the longer wavelengths, thus much less affected by fog or rain fade, to enable the establishment of reliable free-space optical communications for low-cost, high-speed, last-mile interconnection.
Sponsor: Pranalytica, Inc. (formerly Maxima Corporation)10110 Sorrento Valley Road
San Diego, CA 92121
Although demand for voice, Internet, and data communications is growing and expected to double every year, there is currently a network bottleneck because only 5-7 percent of U.S. buildings are connected by fiber optics to the network. The cost of digging up city streets makes it very expensive to bring fiber optics to the customer's premises. In this two-year project, The Maxima Corporation proposes to solve this problem by developing long-wavelength infrared quantum cascade lasers (QCLs) for free-space optical (FSO) communications systems that can penetrate fog up to 140 decibels per kilometer better than currently available short-wavelength lasers. FSO communication systems use outdoor transceivers pointing at each other to transmit high-speed digital data through the atmosphere. Current FSO systems use short wavelength infrared light which can encounter difficulties penetrating atmospheric conditions such as fog, smog, and dust. Technical risks involved with this proposal include: replacing the standard CO2 gas laser with a QCL, which could result in the QCL failing to have the required performance for a commercial long-wavelength FSO system; using a new QCL device structure, which, although technically feasible, has never been attempted; and applying new packaging concepts similar to those used in high-power, high-speed micro/millimeter wave amplifier chips, which have never been applied to laser devices and may not be sufficiently compatible with QCLs to reach the project goals. ATP funding is needed because Maxima has approached numerous venture capital companies for funding, all of whom consider the project too risky. ATP funding will reduce the risk enough for Maxima to obtain funding to commercialize this technology. Other possible applications for QCLs include the development of collision avoidance systems in cars and the development of chemical sensors for monitoring vehicle and industrial emissions of toxic gases. Commercialization of QCLs will open new opportunities in the United States with potential market size of $6 billion to $10 billion a year over the next 5 years. Consumers will benefit from this technology because it will enable new telecommunications services for home and business and will provide for better-quality and lower-cost service.