Agiltron receives funding from NIST for optical switch development

19 September 2003 Wilmington, MA Lightwave -- Agiltron Inc. has been awarded a $3,500,000 grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST) Advanced Technology Program to develop a new type of optical switch based on a revolutionary optical MEMS Technology. AC Photonics (Santa Clara, CA) will join Agiltron in this effort.

19 September 2003 Wilmington, MA Lightwave -- Agiltron Inc. has been awarded a $3,500,000 grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST) Advanced Technology Program to develop a new type of optical switch based on a revolutionary optical MEMS Technology. AC Photonics (Santa Clara, CA) will join Agiltron in this effort.

"The financial support provided by the NIST Advanced Technology Program will allow Agiltron to continue to develop breakthrough optical switch technology at a time when alternative funding sources for high-risk technology are difficult to find," contends Agiltron's founder and president, Dr. Jing Zhao. "Successful development of this technology will bring significant benefits to telecommunications, aerospace, defense and security applications."

During the four-year project, the Agiltron/AC Photonics team will develop a new type of high-speed optical switch for use in telecommunications networks. The switch is based on a differentiated micro-electro-mechanical system (MEMS) platform that offers lower loss, higher speed, lower voltage operation, and longer lifetime compared to competing optical switching technologies.

MEMS-based optical switches provide optical switching of large numbers of signals with minimal signal distortion. However, they do have large optical signal loss because known MEMS approaches can only generate enough force to move small mirrors within the switch. To address the issues associated with current optical switching, Agiltron and AC Photonics intend to develop a new category of optical switches that employs an innovative high-performance electrostrictive film material coupled with a relatively large silicon mirror fabricated on a cantilever arm that efficiently deflects the light beams within the switch. This technology could revolutionize optical MEMS technology, claims the company, replacing expensive electronic switches and enabling widespread deployment of all-optical switching networks. In addition, the innovative use of semiconductor integrated circuit manufacturing technology promises very low production costs.

Optical switches will become a major infrastructural telecommunications component, with many millions of devices needed in the coming years, and could help revitalize the US broadband telecommunications industry. A recent report from KMI Research states that optical switches will show double-digit sales growth from now through 2007. The biotechnology, automotive, defense and security industries also could find applications for the new MEMS devices.

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