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Anderson, CA, United States

Grant
Agency: National Science Foundation | Branch: | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 100.00K | Year: 2009

This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project will demonstrate the feasibility of growing high-quality fibers of periodically poled Mg-doped LiNbO3 for visible light generation, by a modified version of the laser heated pedestal growth (LHPG) method. Other methods used to grow these crystals have proven to be very expensive and to lead to unreliable results with a very long cycle time, making the use of nonlinear crystals non viable for many applications. Periodically poled crystals poled with the conventional LHPG method exhibit curved ferroelectric domains, which results in a loss of nonlinear optical conversion efficiency, making the technology unpractical for miniature display applications where maximum brightness is required. The company will commercialize LHPG-grown frequency doubling crystals of periodically poled Mg-doped LiNbO3 with higher quality, lower price, faster delivery, and longer lifetimes than the Czochralski-grown crystals available today. In order to accomplish this, the technical approach will be to create and engineer a novel optical after heater which can generate high enough temperatures to enable LHPG to grow high quality thicker fibers, with straight ferroelectric domains thus enabling high nonlinear optical conversion efficiency at 532nm in a very reliable and reproducible way. If successful the proposed LHPG method will produce single-crystal fibers of many compounds with low defect density and low internal strain. Its main limitation had been the inability to grow fibers with diameters larger than 0.8 to 1.2 millimeters and also with straight domains for periodically poled crystals, limiting the optical efficiency of the devices. The team will demonstrate a novel technique for growing LHPG fibers with bigger diameters and ferroelectric domains exhibiting no curvature. This work will enable high-volume manufacturing of frequency doubling chips by LHPG and thereby facilitate the commercialization of miniature projectors (especially the ones to be embedded in cell phones or other handheld devices) and other consumer electronics devices, which will rely on frequency-doubled lasers. The project will contribute to the theory of crystal growth. It will help materials scientists in research institutions to make further discoveries because thicker fibers are easier to study. This award is funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-5).


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 819.73K | Year: 2010

This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase II project will demonstrate how to reduce the cost of manufacturing magnesium-doped lithium niobate (Mg:LiNbO3) crystals by more than an order of magnitude. Frequency-doubling crystals, such as Mg:LiNbO3 can convert 1064-nm light from an infrared laser to 532-nm (green) light. However, LiNbO3 crystals made by the conventional Czochralski technique typically cost $800 each, presenting an economic challenge for consumer applications. The approach is to grow crystals by the laser heated pedestal growth method with a novel afterheater and to pole them in situ. Phase II, enables the development of manufacturing capability for these crystals at a rate of 100,000 crystals per year at a cost of less than $22 each. In Phase III, The manufacturing capacity will be increased to 1,000,000 crystals per year and the manufacturing costs reduced below $8. The proposed cost reduction will enable manufacturers of picoprojectors to increase the brightness of their products by integrating lasers as the light sources instead of LEDs. The technical objectives are to optimize the density of Mg:LiNbO3 ceramic feedstock rods, to increase the manufacturing throughput by optimizing manufacturing yield and automating the growth apparatus.

The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is to enhance scientific and technical understanding by demonstrating a) a novel method of growing crystals with lower cost, higher speeds, and greater purity, and b) a way to pole LiNbO3 crystals in situ at lower cost. The project will generate a strong economic impact because many types of handheld consumer electronics devices (cell phones, PDAs, iPods, game terminals, etc.) contain digital data that require visual displays. Picoprojectors can display the content of handheld devices in large formats, but their LED illumination sources can?t generate images with enough brightness to satisfy customers. Laser illumination sources can solve the brightness problem, but lasers are too expensive, primarily because of the cost of the frequency doubling crystals. This project will reduce the cost of these crystals and may thereby enable the picoprojector industry to realize its optimistic growth scenario ($3.6 billion in sales in 2014) rather than its conservative growth scenario ($901 million in sales in 2014). An intern, a science student who is a member of an under-represented group in the nation?s science and engineering enterprise, will be hired to assist with Phase II research.


Grant
Agency: Department of Defense | Branch: Army | Program: SBIR | Phase: Phase I | Award Amount: 99.40K | Year: 2015

Using a combination of their Laser Heated Pedestal Growth and Sol-gel technologies, Shasta Crystals proposes to develop coilable true double-clad fully crystalline ytterbium or erbium-doped fibers as gain media for high-energy lasers for directed energy weapons. The U.S. Army desires to replace glass fibers with coilable single-crystal fibers of Yb:YAG or Er:YAG. The technical challenge is to synthesize a cladded flexible fiber with a core that will exhibit good waveguiding properties. This proposal presents our current state of the art and the work that we will perform in order to reach the target values and specifications of the desired fibers.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 50.00K | Year: 2010

This Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I project will demonstrate the feasibility of growing high-quality fibers of periodically poled Mg-doped LiNbO3 for visible light generation, by a modified version of the laser heated pedestal growth (LHPG) method. Other methods used to grow these crystals have proven to be very expensive and to lead to unreliable results with a very long cycle time, making the use of nonlinear crystals non viable for many applications. Periodically poled crystals poled with the conventional LHPG method exhibit curved ferroelectric domains, which results in a loss of nonlinear optical conversion efficiency, making the technology unpractical for miniature display applications where maximum brightness is required. The company will commercialize LHPG-grown frequency doubling crystals of periodically poled Mg-doped LiNbO3 with higher quality, lower price, faster delivery, and longer lifetimes than the Czochralski-grown crystals available today. In order to accomplish this, the technical approach will be to create and engineer a novel optical after heater which can generate high enough temperatures to enable LHPG to grow high quality thicker fibers, with straight ferroelectric domains thus enabling high nonlinear optical conversion efficiency at 532nm in a very reliable and reproducible way.


If successful the proposed LHPG method will produce single-crystal fibers of many compounds with low defect density and low internal strain. Its main limitation had been the inability to grow fibers with diameters larger than 0.8 to 1.2 millimeters and also with straight domains for periodically poled crystals, limiting the optical efficiency of the devices. The team will demonstrate a novel technique for growing LHPG fibers with bigger diameters and ferroelectric domains exhibiting no curvature. This work will enable high-volume manufacturing of frequency doubling chips by LHPG and thereby facilitate the commercialization of miniature projectors (especially the ones to be embedded in cell phones or other handheld devices) and other consumer electronics devices, which will rely on frequency-doubled lasers. The project will contribute to the theory of crystal growth. It will help materials scientists in research institutions to make further discoveries because thicker fibers are easier to study.


Grant
Agency: NSF | Branch: Standard Grant | Program: | Phase: | Award Amount: 150.00K | Year: 2013

This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I project will demonstrate the technical feasibility of the growth of coilable single-crystal fibers of doped yttrium aluminum garnet (YAG) of sufficient quality to improve the performance of high-power fiber lasers. Single crystal fibers are an intermediate between laser crystals and doped glass fibers. They can combine the advantages of both by guiding laser light and matching the efficiencies found in bulk crystals, making them ideal candidates for high-power laser and fiber laser applications. The technical challenge is to synthesize a cladded flexible fiber with a core of dopant (Er, Nd, Yb, etc.) that will exhibit good waveguiding properties. To achieve this, the Phase I technical objectives will be centered around the execution of various types of experiments to grow cladded YAG out of various feedstocks, followed by the characterization of each grown crystal and finally, the demonstration of lasing effects in cladded Nd:YAG. Successful completion of this project will culminate in the demonstration of flexible doped YAG fibers 200 mm in length, with doped cores 20 microns in diameter.

The broader impact/commercial potential of this project is an improvement in the performance of fiber lasers for industrial applications. The worldwide market for lasers in 2011 was $7.5 billion. Technology areas which will be primarily impacted by this material innovation are material processing, medical, scientific/military, and instrumentation/sensors. The market for material processing lasers is $2.8 billion, and $1.2 billion for the other listed areas. The proposed work would enable laser manufacturers to commercialize higher-power, more efficient lasers. The market share of crystal fiber lasers is expected to grow to at least 10%, because of their performance capabilities. In the most conservative scenario, the cost of a crystal fiber component is estimated to be 2% of the selling price of the laser; therefore, the total addressable market for the crystal fibers themselves will be $2 million. By adding in associated gain modules and subsystems, the revenue potential of this product line increases to over $10 million. Further growth will be possible by enabling new applications with the unique properties of crystal fiber lasers.

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