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Thorlabs Adds to its Optics Capabilities via Acquisition of Cirtemo

Newton, NJ and Columbia, SC – May 1, 2019 – Thorlabs announced today that it has entered into a definitive purchase agreement to acquire Columbia-based Cirtemo, LLC. The acquisition includes two unique technologies: Multivariate Optical Elements for spectroscopic chemical analysis and Nanopatterning Tools known as MagAssemble, which were originally developed by MagAssemble, LLC and are used to “3D print” photolithography masks using nanoparticles. MagAssemble, LLC was recently consolidated with Cirtemo, LLC.

Cirtemo’s multivariate optical elements (MOEs), are wide-band optical spectral filters capable of detecting complex chemical signatures using a simplified optical instrument, effectively replacing a dispersive spectrometer with a compact instrument that uses a single element detector. Although MOE’s are fabricated using the same techniques as traditional optical bandpass filters, Cirtemo’s wide-band optical interference filters are capable of sampling more spectral wavelengths than discrete bandpass filters. By doing so, MOEs provide a higher level of sensitivity and specificity for real-time chemical detection of powders, liquids, slurries, and gases with transmission signatures in the 250 nm to 14 µm range. With the use of MOEs, spectroscopic optical systems can be smaller, lighter, and subjected to harsher environments than traditional optical systems, all while achieving the same analyte detection capabilities of laboratory-grade optical spectrometers.

The compact, MOE-enabled filter photometer configuration, achieved by combining multiple MOEs with a single system, is particularly advantageous for in-line process monitoring on the factory floor, point-of-care clinical use, and incorporation into field-based instruments. Using multiple MOEs, a focal plane array can be leveraged to create a real-time hyperspectral imager that can be employed to detect hazardous chemicals, explosive materials, and biological samples.

Cirtemo’s MagAssemble technology provides a low-cost and higher throughput alternative to the traditional microlithography techniques used to produce 2D patterned structures. Taking advantage of the 50+ years of research and development that has gone into the advancement of hard disk drive technology, Cirtemo’s patented Pattern Transfer Nanomanufacturing™ (PTNM) platform can be employed to create customized photolithographic masks with features as small as a few nanometers. The masks are “printed” by fusing ferrous nanoparticles (measuring ~30 nm in diameter) that are organized into various unique nanometer to micron scale patterns. These patterns vary from simple lines to complex mixtures of lines, dots, circles, and polygons that can be etched into a range of flat or curved substrates.

Among other things, the PTNM process is ideal for producing custom diffractive optical elements for use in the UV to IR spectral range. It can be applied to numerous substrate materials, including polymers, silicon wafers, fused silica, sapphire, and even optical fibers, thus creating laser quality, robust, miniaturized optical components.

The Cirtemo team will remain in South Carolina, form a division called Thorlabs Spectral Works (TSW), and operate as an R&D facility reporting to Thorlabs’ Optics Business Unit in Newton, NJ. For more information on multivariate optical elements or the pattern transfer nanomanufacturing tools, please contact us at TSW@thorlabs.com.

About Cirtemo: Founded in 2012, Cirtemo designs and manufactures patented optical filters, called Multivariate Optical Elements, which are encoded to detect complex chemical compounds. Cirtemo’s patented Multivariate Optical Element platform enables optical systems to perform spectroscopic analysis at the speed of light to a wide range of industries; these include life science, pharmaceutical, chemical, medical device, agriculture, food and beverage, semiconductor, pet nutrition, environmental, plastics, and multiple cleantech applications. Employing their MagAssemble Technology, pattern-transfer nanomanufacturing can be used to fabricate patterned nanoscale structures that hold promise for applications in a wide range of photonics-enabled applications.

About Thorlabs: Thorlabs, a vertically integrated photonics products manufacturer, was founded in 1989 to serve the laser and electro-optics research market. As that market has spawned a multitude of technical innovations, Thorlabs has extended its core competencies in an effort to play an ever increasing role serving the Photonics Industry at the research end, as well as the industrial, life science, medical, and defense segments. The organization’s highly integrated and diverse manufacturing assets include semiconductor fabrication of Fabry-Perot, DFB, and VCSEL lasers; fiber towers for drawing both silica and fluoride glass optical fibers; MBE/MOCVD epitaxial wafer growth reactors; extensive glass and metal fabrication facilities; advanced thin film deposition capabilities; and optomechanical and optoelectronic shops.


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