In hot pursuit of the technology that will make all-optical networks commonplace in the future, Nanovation Technologies (Miami, FL) will finance a photonics research facility at the Cambridge, MA, campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Nanovation will provide $90 million over six years to fund the establishment and operation of the center, as well as interdisciplinary research on photonic, microphotonic, and nanophotonic devices, circuits, and systems. Last week, Nanovation initiated work by giving the university $20 million to pay for the first year of operation of the lab.
G. Robert Tatum, Nanovation's president and CEO, explains that Nanovation will benefit greatly by its investment in the university. "Clearly, MIT is the center for excellence in reasearch in the area of the all-photonic network and its basic components," says Tatum. "I don't think that there are researchers anywhere in the world who are comparable to those at MIT. Many of our Ph.D.s studied under these department heads, and really look up to them as the ultimate authority."
Tatum and physics professor David Litster, MIT vice president and dean for research, will oversee the research collaboration. The research center will bring researchers from Nanovation together with faculty and students from the departments of materials science and engineering, electrical engineering and computer science, chemical engineering, chemistry, and physics.
Nanovation employees will staff the research center. Depending on the sponsored research project, MIT department heads will bring their own staff in to augment the company's, says Tatum. "We will be using an existing building, but everything in the building will be new. We're going to add cleanrooms, and we have a very exhaustive list of equipment that both MIT and Nanovation will need to develop products. We think that we'll be into the new laboratory in the May/June timeframe," Tatum predicts.
Tatum says that laboratory researchers will initially study four programs involving amplifiers, light detectors, lasers, and low insertion-loss devices.
Under MIT's standard collaboration agreement, MIT will be free to publish research results. An intellectual property arrangement awards joint ownership to inventions and improvements created jointly by MIT and Nanovation researchers, or by Nanovation researchers using MIT facilities. Intellectual property developed only by MIT personnel will be owned by MIT.
Nanovation will be able to benefit from research already begun at MIT, as well. "Numerous pieces of technology that were funded and developed at MIT are really ready to be taken to the next stage, or the development stage," explains Tatum. "On those types of projects, when MIT and Nanovation agree that it's time to commercially develop those technologies, we'll move those projects into our new laboratory. We'll provide the resources to finish the development of those projects so that we can introduce them as finished products into the marketplace."
Nanovation has worked with a similar research arrangement at Northwestern University. The agreement with MIT "is just a continuation of our strategy of partnering with the premiere academic universities around the world," asserts Tatum. He adds, "We'll be announcing another relationship in the near future."
Nanovation Technologies designs and develops integrated optical devices based on its patented microcavity lasers and resonators for the fiber communications market. Nanovation will offer products that will include optical cross-connect switches, add/drop switches, wavelength-division multiplexers, and advanced photonic devices with the ability to integrate laser sources and optical switches on the same device. The company is testing a fully integrated optical circuit that is up to 1,000 times smaller than electron-based semiconductor chips. The circuit has the potential to boost both the speed and information capacity of existing chip technology by a factor of 100 to 1,000.
Photo: MIT Provost Robert A. Brown (left), Nanovation President and CEO G. Robert Tatum (center) and MIT President Charles M. Vest discuss plans after signing the MIT-Nanovation photonics research agreement in President Vest's office.