Nano-Watermark Sorts Fakes from Genuine Article

Water Mark Nano maxresdefaultThe nano-watermark appears only under ultraviolet light. (Credit: EPFL)


Nanoga, an EPFL-based startup, has developed a technique to put a nanoscopic watermark onto glass or ceramic. Products with this watermark, which is invisible to the naked eye and only shows up under ultraviolet light, are impossible to counterfeit.

With Nanoga’s new way of combatting counterfeits, each product can be made unique without changing its appearance. The , which was developed at EPFL, involves an image that is invisible to the  and can only be seen under ultraviolent light. It was initially developed for high-end sapphire crystal watches, but Nanoga has just patented a system of photonic watermarks for glass, ceramic and metal as well.

This technique ensures cutting-edge security: to reproduce this type of nanometric image would be as complicated as trying to forge the Swiss 50-franc note. The process uses expensive machinery and a secret recipe of chemicals that is patent-protected. And the expert’s touch is another essential ingredient. The outcome is a series of layers of atoms that is more than 10,000 times thinner than a hair and does not in any way alter the material’s properties.

In a machine normally used to make LEDs, the substances are deposited onto the surface as a vapor. Using lithographic printing, certain areas are then activated in order to create the watermark. In a form of atomic gymnastics, the atoms that have been activated react when exposed to , instantly revealing themselves to the human eye.

Added security

The lithographic printing is done on a nanoscopic scale, which means that discrete details difficult for the naked eye to read even with the ultraviolent light can be added. And this translates into greater security. A tiny series number that’s no bigger than a grain of sand can, for example, be carefully marked and will be visible only using a very strong magnifying glass.

here are various ways of integrating this technique into the production process. The startup is about to acquire an industrial machine for depositing the nanophotonic layers, which is the most complicated step in the process. Product manufacturers will then be able to provide the glass to be marked with the image in the color of their choice; they’ll then get the glass back, ready for fitting.

Nanoga’s CEO, Nasser Hefyene, is an expert in the fake watch trade. A few years ago, he contacted Nicolas Grandjean, professor at EPFL’s Laboratory of Advanced Semiconductors for Photonics and Electronics. And it was there that he found what he was looking for – anti-counterfeit technology that doesn’t require a high-tech tool to verify a product’s authenticity and that doesn’t change the product’s appearance either. “The aim was to combine tried-and-tested technologies in order to design a new security system that cannot be reproduced,” said Hefyene. The technique, which took two years to develop, is now ready, and Hefyene has been able to generate some initial interest among luxury watchmakers.

It’s now just a question of breaking into this very cautious market.

A New Quantum Dot Could Make Quantum Communications Possible

QDmulicolorsMA new form of quantum dot has been developed by an international team of researchers that can produce identical photons at will, paving the way for multiple revolutionary new uses for light.

Many upcoming quantum technologies will require a source of multiple lone photons with identical properties, and for the first time these researchers may have an efficient way to make them. With these quantum dots at their disposal, engineers might be able to start thinking about new, large-scale quantum communications networks.

The reason we need identical photons for quantum communication comes back to the non-quantum idea of key distribution. From a mathematics perspective, it’s trivially easy to encrypt any message so that nobody can read it, but very hard to encrypt a message so only some select individuals can read it, and nobody else.

The reason is key distribution: if everybody who needs to decrypt a message has the associated key needed for decryption, then no problem. So how do you get the key to everyone who needs to decrypt it?

This Stanford invention helps handle entangled photons, but does it introduce vulnerabilities in the process?

Quantum key distribution uses the ability of quantum physics to provide evidence of surveillance. Rather than making it impossible to intercept the key, and thus decrypt the message, quantum key distribution simply makes it impossible to secretly intercept the key, thus giving the sender of the message warning that they should try again with a new key until one gets through successfully. Once you’re sure that your intended recipient has the key, and just as importantly that nobody else has it, then you could send the actual encrypted file via smoke signal if you really wanted to — at that point, the security of the transmission itself really shouldn’t matter.QDLED 08_Bulovic_QDs_inLiquidSolutions

There has been some promising research in this field — it’s not to be confused with the much more preliminary work on using quantum entanglement to transfer information in such a way that it literally does not traverse the intervening space. That may come along someday, but not for a long, long time.

Regardless, one of the big problems with implementing quantum key distribution is that the optical technology necessary to get these surveillance-aware signals from sender to recipient just aren’t there. In particular, the wavelength of photons changes as they move down an optical fiber — not good, since creating photon with precise attributes is the whole source of quantum security.

Texas Tech University: Nano-HPLC: Nano Scale Security & Sensors: Advanced Surveillance and Testing

PF_NanoHPLC_640x360Getting smaller can be a good thing for high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). Nano-HPLC delivers lab-changing benefits to scientists.

The United States government—nearly 14 years after September 11, 2001—continues to invest heavily in homeland security. In fact, the president’s 2015 budget calls for US$38.2 billion for the Department of Homeland Security, and that equals more than 20 percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). To keep ahead of and be able to manage security threats, governments require increasingly advanced methods for surveillance and testing. One of those is inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry (ICP-MS).

Getting smaller can be a good thing for high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC). In fact, nano-HPLC delivers some lab-changing benefits to scientists. The key is all-around scale. Whereas traditional HPLC flow rates go as low as a few hundred microliters per minute, that metric drops to the nanoliter range in nano-HPLC. “That smaller scale means that everything needs to be downscaled,” explains Remco Swart, director of LC/ MS technologies at Thermo Fisher Scientific in Waltham, Massachusetts.

The LC columns reveal some of the key features of the changes in scale. For example, HPLC’s traditional columns are a couple of millimeters across inside, and nano-HPLC relies on columns with an internal diameter of just 75 micrometers. Consequently, the injection and flow rates must be adjusted accordingly. “You can see the stream of the eluent in traditional HPLC,” says Pat Young, senior product manager at Waters Corporation in Milford, Massachusetts. “If you examine the end of a nano-HPLC column as the sample elutes, you never actually see even a drop formed.” That shows just how much the flow rate is decreased in nano-HPLC.

Pushing down the HPLC scale, however, pushes up the possibilities. “The main reason for going to nano-HPLC is if a customer is limited in the amount of sample available,” says Swart. “There are areas where scientists want lots of information from limited samples.” Nano- HPLC makes that possible.

Down to the details

With a smaller internal-diameter column, nano- HPLC keeps the sample more concentrated, rather than its being relatively diluted across a wider column. Nonetheless, the smaller scale creates complexities in connecting the parts. To simplify this process, Thermo Fisher Scientific developed its nanoViper fittings. As Swart says, “With these, you make toolfree connections and eliminate dead volume easily to maintain the separation quality all the way into the detector.” He adds, “It lets you make nano-LC measurements in an easier way.”

Waters also created technology that makes it easier for scientists to use nano-HPLC. “We created the ACQUITY UPLC M-Class to do nano-flow for 75-micrometer columns all the way up to 100 microliters per minute for 1-millimeter internal diameter columns,” says Young. “It’s a direct nano-flow system so you don’t have to fuss around with things.” In addition, Waters’ ionKey/MS system integrates a 150-micrometer internal diameter separation into the source of the mass spectrometer.

Other vendors also offer systems that simplify nano- HPLC. For example, Gurmil Gendeh, director of biopharmaceutical segment marketing for Agilent in Santa Clara, California, says, “The Agilent 1260 Infinity HPLC-Chip/MS system is a reusable microfluidic chip-based technology for high-sensitivity nanospray LC/MS that seamlessly integrates the sample preparation, sample enrichment and separation nano columns, tubing, connections, and spray needle of a traditional nano-electrospray LC/MS system into a biocompatible polymer chip.” This system can also be adapted to specific applications by using different chips. As Gendeh says, “A wide variety of chips with specific chemistries enables a broad spectrum of applications, including intact monoclonal antibody characterization, monoclonal antibody sequence confirmation, and indepth characterization of the myriad post-translational modifications of these complex molecules.” For example, Agilent makes a chip for N-linked glycans. Gendeh adds, “Complete glycan release, analysis, and data processing can typically be completed in 15 minutes per sample and requires very little hands-on time.”

Scaled-up sensitivity

The decreased size in nano-HPLC delivers increased sensitivity. Although the magnitude of the sensitivity increase depends on the experimental conditions and analytes, in comparing traditional and nano-HPLC technology, says Swart, “a ballpark improvement in sensitivity of a few hundred times should be able to be realized.”

In brief, nano-HPLC’s ability to keep the sample concentrated delivers more of the sample to the detector, which is typically mass spectrometry (MS). “The flow rates of nano-HPLC couple extremely well with MS,” says Pete Claise, senior product manager at Waters Corporation. “At the flow rates of nano-HPLC, 40 percent to 50 percent of the sample gets to the detector, compared with only two percent to three percent at the rates of traditional HPLC.”

In addition, nano-HPLC creates more efficient ionization of the sample and allows some simplifications. “Because of less flow, there is no need for nebulization gas,” Claise explains.

Proteomics and beyond

When a scientist wants to identify and quantify the proteins in complex samples, like biological fluids, nano-HPLC provides the needed sensitivity. As Young says, “Proteomics is the sweet spot for micro- and nano-HPLC.” She adds, “Whether targeted or untargeted this application requires a wide dynamic range.”

In fact, Susan San Francisco, research associate professor at the Center for Biotechnology and Genomics at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, says, “Our lab has used nano-HPLC mostly in proteomic work.” She says that nano-HPLC offers many useful advantages for her lab’s work, including greater sensitivity and the use of less solvent. Nonetheless, she also points out several shortcomings of nano-HPLC, including the limited kinds of columns available. She adds, “Nanospray can be a bit less stable for downstream MS, and you must have a low-volume injector or trap system.” So nano-HPLC won’t always be the best choice, although it is worth considering in an increasing number of applications.

Beyond proteomics, San Francisco says that her lab has also used nano-HPLC for “a small amount of targeted small molecule separation.” Others also point out that nano-HPLC works out well in various applications. As an example, Swart says, “Biopharma needs to find biological drugs in complex matrices, like serum, when studying the impact of a drug.” Nano-HPLC works well in this bioanalytical application. As Claise says, “Over the past decade, lots of papers have shown the benefits of low-flow LC for bioanalytical work.” He adds, “Work in lipidomics and metabolomics is also pushing toward micro- and nano-flow HPLC.”

Although nano-HPLC started as a technology for experts, new commercial products carry it to other scientists. As Swart says, “A lot of universities these days have this technology in their labs.” In fact, the available technology brings nano-HPLC to nearly any lab. In addition, the technology is now easy and robust enough for other environments, such as industrial LC-MS laboratories. In any technology that goes from expertbased to the scientific masses, you never know how far it will go, and that is currently the case for nano-HPLC.

For additional resources on nano-HPLC, including useful articles and a list of manufacturers, visit

Tiny Sensors Inspired by Butterfly Wings Could Improve Bomb Detection

Bobmb Butterfly sensor_10Engineers in GE labs have built a penny-sized sensor that can detect the faintest traces of explosives and needs no power to operate.

The device uses a special film a tenth the thickness of a human hair to detect chemicals. The team was inspired by their research of the unique iridescence of Morpho butterflies caused by the jagged, forest-like scales found on their wings. (They applied data analytics developed for their bio-inspired Morpho light and temperature sensors to the new radiofrequency (RF) bomb sensors.)

“Our sensor could be placedas a sticker inside of a cargo container on a ship or on packaging for shippedgoods,” says Radislav Potyrailo, a chemical sensing principal scientist who is leading development of the detector at GE Global Research. “It’s a stick-it-and-forget-it kind of thing. This advance brings us closer to a future of ubiquitous testing of chemical explosives.”

The tiny device might be a game changer in detecting hazardous materials like chemical oxidizers and explosives, a process that today requires large and expensive equipment like spectrometers and chromatographs. Instead, the new sensor, which should cost a few cents to produce, is 300 times smaller and consumes 100 times less power than desktop detectors found at airports and other inspection areas.

Heat and chemicals can alter how the jagged structures on Morpho wings reflect light and change butterfly’s color. Heat and chemicals can alter how the jagged structures on Morpho wings reflect light and change butterfly’s color. The device uses a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag coated with an advanced chemical detection film. The scientists designed the film by pooling their knowledge of materials science, nanotechnology, chemistry and data analytics.

Potyrailo, for example, has been studying the scales on the wings of Morpho butterflies for several years. These complex structures absorb and bend light and give the butterflies their trademark shimmering coats. He found that when chemical molecules lodge themselves in the scales on the wings, the structures cause iridescence change.

“We analyze optical spectra from out bio-inspired Morpho sensors and spectra coming from the RF sensors using the same methods,” Potyrailo says. “Light and radio waves are very similar, after all. They are just different portions of the electromagnetic radiation.”

The detector is made of two parts: the RFID sensor tag and a battery-powered, cellphone-size handheld tag reader. Commuters will be familiar with the RFID tag component. It’s similar to the technology they stick on their windshield for automatic highway toll collection but without a battery.

The tag is composed of a flat, coiled antenna attached to a microchip in the center. The antenna harvests power from the reader when it is nearby to operate. Layered on top of the antenna and chip is the special film. This film and sensor combination is designed to respond only to molecules or particles of explosives or oxidizers that are used to make improvised bombs.

Morpho butterfly wings change their natural color (A) after exposure to ethanol (top B) and toluene (bottom B).Morpho butterfly wings change their natural color (A) after exposure to ethanol (top B) and toluene (bottom B).

The portable reader is hitting the tag with radio frequencies, just like light hitting the butterfly’s wing. When workers hold it up to the sensor tag, the radio frequency spectrum is predictably altered by the presence of hazardous materials trapped in the film. This radio spectrum response is picked up by the antenna and

The GE Global Research team behind the RFID sensor. Potyrailo is second from the left.The GE Global Research team behind the RFID sensor. Potyrailo is second from the left.Potyrailo says the technology’s sensing range will expand into an assortment of applications in the future, including passive gas leaks, electrical insulation degradation and bacterial contamination detection.

Potyrailo’s group has been working on the detector for several years. They have partnered with a number of GE labs as well as the Technical Support Working Group (TSWG), a U.S. interagency program for research and development into counterterrorism measures, and other companies to pull in expertise from a range of fields. Their device is designed to meet tough requirements for field deployment on ships and in punishing environments.

“It’s a very attractive device – reliable, robust, cost-effective, low power and high performance,” Potyrailo says. “Chemical threats can be detected and quantified at very low levels with a single sensor, even improvised explosive devices—crazy devices made out of common grocery or pharmacy stuff —we can detect them.”

European Union 5 Billion Euro Graphene Research Fund Goliath Moves to Commercialization Efforts While Lomiko Efforts Start to Bear Fruit

Graphene Desal shutterstock_233104066-660x487VANCOUVER, Feb. 1, 2015 /PRNewswire/ – Lomiko (“Lomiko”) (TSX-V:LMR, OTC:LMRMF, FSE:DH8B) is raising the alarm regarding Canada’s lacklustre efforts to capitalize on new manufacturing and nanotechnology opportunities while concentrating on the oil industry.

“In twenty years the effect of graphene and 3D printing on society will be amazing, very much like the impact of plastics in the sixties and computers in the eighties.  I hope that Canadian finance and government institutions recognize the opportunity for Canada to establish a competitive advantage,” stated A. Paul Gill, CEO. “The EU has put 5 Billion euros into graphene research while most Canadians don’t even know about this Nobel-prize winning material.”

Mr. Gill was recently interview by Business Television regarding Lomiko’s efforts in the field.  View the 90 second video clip by clicking here.

Lomiko has been working for two years on graphene commercialization efforts.  Partnered with Graphene Labs, Lomiko has launched two ventures in the graphene field.  On January 5, 2015 Lomiko announced a summary of its activity in 2014 and 2015 plans to spin-off two new technology companies after the successful launch of Graphene 3D Lab, a company focused on developing 3D Printing hardware and materials.  Lomiko continues to hold 4,396,916 shares or 10.43% of Graphene 3D Lab, 40% of newly formed Graphene Energy Storage Devices (Graphene ESD) and 100% of Lomiko Technologies Inc.

EU FUND – Graphene Flagship

The Graphene Flagship’s overriding goal is to take graphene, related layered materials and hybrid systems from a state of raw potential to a point where they can revolutionize multiple industries. This may bring a new dimension to future technology and put Europe at the heart of the process, with a manifold return on the investment as technological innovation, economic exploitation and societal benefits.

This requires the focus of the Flagship to evolve over the years, placing more resources in areas where this transition is more likely. To accomplish this the Graphene Flagship is looking for new industrial partners that bring in specific industrial and technology transfer competences or capabilities that complement the present consortium. Regarding what nations are eligible to apply, the European Commission (EC) rules are found here.

The selected new partners will be incorporated in the scientific and technological work packages of the core project under the Horizon 2020 phase of the Flagship that is presently being planned and that will run during 1 April 201631 March 2018.

On Behalf of the Board

“Jacqueline Michael”

Jacqueline Michael

We seek safe harbor. Neither TSX Venture Exchange nor its Regulation Services Provider (as that term is defined in the policies of the TSX Venture Exchange) accepts responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this release.

SOURCE Lomiko Metals Inc.

‘Gas’ Detection – Inexpensively and WIRELESSLY – MIT

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) chemists have devised a new way to wirelessly detect hazardous gases and environmental pollutants, using a simple sensor that can be read by a smartphone.

These inexpensive sensors could be widely deployed, making it easier to monitor public spaces or detect food spoilage in warehouses. Using this system, the researchers have demonstrated that they can detect gaseous ammonia, hydrogen peroxide and cyclohexanone, among other gases.

“The beauty of these sensors is that they are really cheap. You put them up, they sit there, and then you come around and read them. There’s no wiring involved. There’s no power,” says Timothy Swager, the John D. MacArthur Professor of Chemistry at MIT. “You can get quite imaginative as to what you might want to do with a technology like this.”

Swager is the senior author of a paper describing the new sensors in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Chemistry graduate student Joseph Azzarelli is the paper’s lead author; other authors are postdoctoral researcher Katherine Mirica and former MIT postdoctoral researcher Jens Ravnsbaek.

Versatile gas detection

For several years, Swager’s laboratory has been developing gas-detecting sensors based on devices known as chemiresistors, which consist of simple electrical circuits modified so that their resistance changes when exposed to a particular chemical. Measuring that change in resistance reveals whether the target gas is present.

Unlike commercially available chemiresistors, the sensors developed in Swager’s laboratory require almost no energy and can function at ambient temperatures. “This would allow us to put sensors in many different environments or in many different devices,” Swager says.

The new sensors are made from modified near-field communication (NFC) tags. These tags, which receive the little power they need from the device reading them, function as wirelessly addressable barcodes and are mainly used for tracking products such as cars or pharmaceuticals as they move through a supply chain, such as in a manufacturing plant or warehouse.

NFC tags can be read by any smartphone that has near-field communication capability, which is included in many newer smartphone models. These phones can send out short pulses of magnetic fields at radio frequency (13.56 MHz), inducing an electric current in the circuit on the tag, which relays information to the phone.

To adapt these tags for their own purposes, the MIT team first disrupted the electronic circuit by punching a hole in it. Then, they reconnected the circuit with a linker made of carbon nanotubes that are specialized to detect a particular gas. In this case, the researchers added the carbon nanotubes by “drawing” them onto the tag with a mechanical pencil they first created in 2012, in which the usual pencil lead is replaced with a compressed powder of carbon nanotubes. The team refers to the modified tags as CARDs: chemically actuated resonant devices.

When carbon nanotubes bind to the target gas, their ability to conduct electricity changes, which shifts the radio frequencies at which power can be transferred to the device. When a smartphone pings the CARD, the CARD responds only if it can receive sufficient power at the smartphone-transmitted radio frequencies, allowing the phone to determine whether the circuit has been altered and the gas is present.

Current versions of the CARDs can each detect only one type of gas, but a phone can read multiple CARDs to get input on many different gases, down to concentrations of parts per million. With the current version of the technology, the phone must be within 5 cm of the CARD to get a reading, but Azzarelli is currently working with Bluetooth technology to expand the range.

Widespread deployment

The researchers have filed for a patent on the sensing technology and are now looking into possible applications. Because these devices are so inexpensive and can be read by smartphones, they could be deployed nearly anywhere: indoors to detect explosives and other harmful gases, or outdoors to monitor environmental pollutants.

Once an individual phone gathers data, the information could be uploaded to wireless networks and combined with sensor data from other phones, allowing coverage of very large areas, Swager says.

The researchers are also pursuing the possibility of integrating the CARDs into “smart packaging” that would allow people to detect possible food spoilage or contamination of products. Swager’s laboratory has previously developed sensors that can detect ethylene, a gas that signals ripeness in fruit.

The CARDs could also be incorporated into dosimeters to help monitor worker safety in manufacturing plants by measuring how much gas the workers are exposed to. “Since it’s low-cost, disposable, and can easily interface with a phone, we think it could be the type of device that someone could wear as a badge, and they could ping it when they check in in the morning and then ping it again when they check out at night,” Azzarelli says.

Source: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Terahertz device could strengthen security

Northwestern_University_Seal_svgWe are all familiar with the hassles that accompany air travel. We shuffle through long lines, remove our shoes, and carry liquids in regulation-sized tubes. And even after all the effort, we still wonder if these procedures are making us any safer. Now a new type of security detection that uses terahertz radiation is looking to prove its promise. Able to detect explosives, chemical agents, and dangerous biological substances from safe distances, devices using terahertz waves could make public spaces more secure than ever.

But current terahertz sources are large, multi-component systems that sometimes require complex vacuum systems, external pump lasers and even cryogenic cooling. The unwieldy devices are heavy, expensive, and hard to transport, operate and maintain.

“A single-component solution capable of room temperature and widely tunable operation is highly desirable to enable next-generation terahertz systems,” said Manijeh Razeghi, Walter P. Murphy Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at Northwestern Univ.’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Director of Northwestern’s Center for Quantum Devices, Razeghi and her team have been working to develop such a device. In a recent paper in Applied Physics Letters, they demonstrate a room temperature, highly tunable, high-power terahertz source. Based on nonlinear mixing in quantum cascade lasers, the source can emit up to 1.9 mW of power and has a wide frequency coverage of 1 to 4.6 terahertz. By designing a multi-section, sampled-grating distribution feedback and distributed Bragg reflector waveguide, Razeghi and her team were also able to give the device a tuning range of 2.6 to 4.2 terahertz at room temperature.

The device has applications in medical and deep space imaging as well as security screening.

“I am very excited about these results,” Razeghi said. “No one would believe any of this was possible, even a couple years ago.”

Source: Northwestern Univ.

Will New Transistor Material Replace Silicon?


newtransistoFor the ever-shrinking transistor, there may be a new game in town. Cornell researchers have demonstrated promising electronic performance from a semiconducting compound with properties that could prove a worthy companion to silicon.

New data on electronic properties of an atomically thin crystal of molybdenum disulfide are reported online in Science June 27 by Kin Fai Mak, a postdoctoral fellow at the Kavli Institute at Cornell for Nanoscale Science. His co-authors are Paul McEuen, the Goldwin Smith Professor of Physics; Jiwoong Park, associate professor of chemistry and chemical biology; and physics graduate student Kathryn McGill.


Atoms of molybdenum (gray) and sulfur (yellow) are shown in a two-dimensional crystal formation. A laser hits the surface in a spiral, causing a valley current carried by an electron-hole pair, to move through the crystal. Credit: Kathryn McGill

Recent interest in molybdenum disulfide for has been inspired in part by similar studies on graphene – one atom-thick carbon in an atomic formation like chicken wire. Although super strong, really thin and an excellent conductor, graphene doesn’t allow for easy switching on and off of current, which is at the heart of what a transistor does.

Molybdenum disulfide, on the other hand, is easy to acquire, can be sliced into very thin crystals and has the needed band gap to make it a semiconductor. It possesses another potentially useful property: Besides both intrinsic charge and spin, it also has an extra degree of freedom called a valley, which can produce a perpendicular, chargeless current that does not dissipate any energy as it flows.

If that valley current could be harnessed – scientists are still working on that – the material could form the basis for a near-perfect, atomically thin transistor, which in principle would allow electronics to dissipate no heat, according to Mak.

The researchers showed the presence of this valley current in a transistor they designed at the Cornell NanoScale Science and Technology Facility (CNF). Their experiments included illuminating the transistor with circularly polarized light, which had the unusual effect of exciting electrons into a sideways curve. These experiments bolstered the concept of using the valley degree of freedom as an information carrier for next-generation electronics or optoelectronics.

Explore further: Scalable CVD process for making 2-D molybdenum diselenide

Why IBM and Intel Are Chasing the $100B Opportunity in Nanophotonics

Printing Graphene ChipsPeter De Dobbelaere, PhD has spent nearly two decades at the intersection of optics and electronics. He is currently Vice President of Engineering at Luxtera – a market leader in Silicon Photonics (Full disclosure: my venture firm Lux Capital is an equity investor in Luxtera). We sat down for an exclusive interview to understand the state of the industry.

Nanophotonics sounds complex. How would you explain this technology to someone you met in the supermarket?

The idea behind Nanophotonics (or Silicon Photonics) is actually quite simple: take the world’s fastest communication technology (light), and build it directly into semiconductor chips using well-known and massively scalable production processes.

The goal is to take the same optics functions that have traditionally been done with esoteric and expensive parts and processes and bring them into a regular chip fabrication facility. This allows you to build off of the existing multibillion-dollar investments made by the semiconductor industry, instead of having to create a new manufacturing line for every new product. It also allows for integration with other computer circuits – combining many valuable functions into one small package.

These manufacturing platforms and broad scale integration are the same key drivers that have enabled the industry to produce low cost iPhones, tablets, and laptop PCs, as well as the millions of servers, switches, and routers that power the Internet. As we build the next generations of servers and connect them together, we need a technology like Silicon Photonics to leverage that same infrastructure to meet the incredible demand for high-speed data throughput at an acceptable cost.

IBM recently made a big announcement in this space. What are they working on?

This is an area IBM cares about because the rapid expansion of bandwidth in datacenters is creating many challenges that Silicon Photonics are likely to play a fundamental role in addressing. While the press release did not provide too many specific details, IBM did announce an important accomplishment in successfully integrating photonics on standard CMOS circuits. This is equivalent to a milestone Luxtera hit over four years ago, prior to entering full production with our technology.

How does Luxtera’s technology differ from IBM’s?

In some aspects, the technology announced by IBM is similar to what Luxtera announced in 2008 – it is based on a standard 200mm CMOS process in a commercial fabrication facility. It is likely that this technology, like Luxtera’s, can be used to build optical transceiver chips operating in the 10Gb data rate.

Printing Graphene Chips

What is unclear is how IBM plans to build actual products. In addition to the Silicon Photonics processes and chip design, Luxtera has developed a suitable light source and cost effective methods to get light in and out of the chips and how to package these cost effectively in a product. IBM also talks about using multiple wavelengths (WDM) of light in their devices. This is an approach we demonstrated in 2007, but through extensive work in commercializing the technology to meet customer needs, we’ve focused on more low-power and cost-effective solutions using a single-wavelength laser for multiple channels. To enhance bandwidth further, the single-wavelength approach is extensible through the use of advanced modulation similar to what the industry has used for electrical interconnect to keep costs down as bandwidth increases.

IBM announced chips made on a 90-nanometer process – what does that mean?

90-nanometers refers to the feature size for the design process they are using. In simple terms, smaller is usually better (our continued ability to shrink our circuits have helped give rise to Moore’s Law – doubling chip performance every 18 months). 90nm is far from our latest technology node – the industry is already working on 14nm processes.

In 2008, Luxtera also produced a fully-integrated device on a similar process, but we deemed these “older transistors” too slow for next generation applications that require 25Gb speed. So instead of trying to chase Moore’s law, we believe the industry will evolve to use a hybrid approach – integrating the latest transistors from any factory with Silicon Photonics. This approach is similar to trends we see in high-volume wireless chipsets, allowing increased flexibility to designers. It is doubtful that fully-integrated 90nm chips will enable power efficient operation at the data rates the industry is demanding.


What are the latest developments inside Luxtera?

Luxtera has been making critical progress in both R&D and volume production; we recently began sampling the industry’s 1st 100Gb chipset. Additionally, we announced that we shipped over 1 million 10Gb channels. We continue volume production today of our 40Gb and 56Gb products, and will end the year having shipped over 2 million total channels and amassed a mountain of production data. This experience is enabling a platform capable of delivering tens of millions of devices a year.

Where are so many devices being used?

Many system-makers are beginning to replace the interfaces that traditionally used copper wires with optical fibers. One good example are the backplanes for servers and switches within data centers – our chips are enabling the transition from copper to fiber optics and are slated to drive those fibers.

We are also seeing that Luxtera’s Silicon Photonics technology platform is going to play a pivotal role in the adoption of 100Gb speeds in the data center. A key issue here is interconnecting the countless servers that make up the cloud. The architectures favored by these installations require connections that span 100-500 meters. As you push the data rate to 100Gb, the industry has found that legacy technologies such as copper traces and multimode fiber are unable to deliver. This is helping to catalyze significant demand for our 100Gb products.

What about Intel’s efforts in this area?

Both IBM and Intel have done outstanding work in silicon photonics. As clear leaders in semiconductors, they recognize the need to move Silicon Photonics from R&D towards production.  Both companies are playing with different designs and architectures. We believe that these companies will run into similar constraints as we did when we brought this technology through commercialization.

When do you see a broad transition to Silicon Photonics taking place?

This is a very exciting place to be right now. Marquee system vendors are starting to demand this technology (as evidenced by Cisco’s recent acquisition of Silicon Photonics startup Lightwire). I don’t have any crystal ball, but I fully expect Silicon Photonics and Luxtera to be playing a significant role in the datacenter, mobile data and cloud data expansion in the next few years.

Quantum Dots (QD) are Set to Explode in the Next 18 Months

atomsinananoQuantum dots (QD) are potentially set to explode in the next 18 months. Companies such as QD Vision and Nanosys have developed scalable solution production processes and are partnering with multi-national OEMs to use quantum dots in displays for consumer products. QDs warm up the colour of the light while increasing its quality (colour rendering index), delivering a superior blend of colour quality, lifetime and efficiency.

QD enhanced applications are currently under development or are in limited production (QD-LED lighting). The end user markets for QDs are potentially very lucrative. Lighting and displays each represent $100 billion plus markets and will continue to grow. QD materials and component therefore are potentially a multi-billion sub-market revenue opportunity just for these sectors. Additional markets in solar, security, thermoelectrics and magnetics could double this potential market.

This 90 page report maps the current and future market for quantum dots and includes:

  • Market revenue estimates for quantum dots to 2024
  • End user markets
  • Company profiles


  • Displays – Market drivers, trends, suppliers and products
  • Energy (Photovoltaics and Solid-State Lighting) – Market drivers, trends, suppliers and products
  • Biomedicine – Market drivers, trends, suppliers and products
  • Security – Market drivers, trends, suppliers and products
  • Sensors – Market drivers, trends, suppliers and products

Companies Mentioned

  • American Dye Source
  • American Elements
  • Bayer MaterialScience AG
  • Cyrium Technologies
  • EBioscience
  • Emfutur Technologies
  • Evident Technologies
  • Genefinity S.r.l.
  • Invisage
  • Life Technologies Corporation
  • LG Display Co., Ltd.
  • Nanoco Technologies
  • Nano Axis LLC
  • Nano Optical Materials
  • NanoPhotonica
  • Nanoshel
  • Nanosquare, Inc.
  • Nanosys, Inc.
  • Ocean Nanotech LLC
  • PlasmaChem GmbH
  • QD Laser, Inc.
  • QLight Nanotech
  • QD Solution
  • QD Vision
  • Revolution Lighting Technologies
  • Samsung
  • Sigma-Aldrich
  • Selah Technologies, LLC
  • Solexant Technologies, LLC
  • Voxtel, Inc.

Genesis Nanotechnology Business Summary Chart

GNT Bussiness Summary Chart II