News Article

QCL Systems Make Commercial Breakthroughs

Cascade Technologies and Pranalytica are beginning to reap the benefits that quantum cascade devices offer over competing IR emitters.

Two rival system makers have established a significant market toehold for quantum cascade lasers, driven by quite different applications.

Cascade Technologies of Stirling, Scotland, is negotiating a supply agreement with what it calls “a major global corporate" for leak-detection systems to monitor an aerosol filling line.

That partnership has validated a 1.3 µm wavelength “spectral fingerprinting" approach, presenting the results last month at the International Foundation for Process Analytical Chemistry meeting in Baltimore, Maryland.

The Scottish company is now producing the first of these systems, claiming that semiconductor quantum cascade lasers (QCLs) make them straightforward to use and economical to run.

“Cascade s solution demonstrates the multiple advantages of QCL-based mid infra-red spectroscopy over incumbent technologies," a spokesperson said.

Based on die made by Switzerland s Alpes Lasers and others, the company says it has been supplying gas analyzers to customers specifications since 2007.

Meanwhile, Santa Monica s Pranalytica introduced 2 W QCL systems emitting at 4.6 µm for use in military infra-red countermeasures in January.

The Californian company has been supplying 1 W systems to provide protection against heat-seeking missiles to four top-flight defense and aerospace companies since June 2008.

“These are high-volume needs," Pranalytica chief executive officer Kumar Patel told compoundsemiconductor.net. “Directional infrared countermeasures require very high power and efficiency, continuous-wave, room-temperature devices,which is Pranalytica s specialty."

Pranalytica also supplies handheld, battery powered QCL products - designed to illuminate target areas for heat-seeking weapons - to defense customers. Patel says that the markets for both defense and gas sensing applications are growing rapidly.

Unlike Cascade, Pranalytica is vertically integrated and produces all of its own InGaAs/InAlAs/InP QCLs.

Although Pranalytica claims to have produced the first commercially available QCL systems, both Cascade and Pranalytica began selling these products in 2004.

Regardless of its competitor s bullish position, Cascade sees the parallel fortunes of the two companies underlining the potential of the basic technology, especially in its core market.

“The competition in the field of gas analysis can only reinforce our belief that mid-IR QCL spectroscopy has strong commercial potential in a variety of applications," the company said.

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