PhAST and Laser Focus World Select Thorlabs, Inc. To Receive Innovation Award


Lyndsay Meyer


Company’s Adaptive Scanning Optical Microscope eliminates traditional trade-off
between magnification, field of view

WASHINGTON, April 17 -- The Photonic Applications, Systems and Technologies (PhAST) Conference and Laser Focus World magazine are pleased to announce that Thorlabs, Inc. has been selected as the recipient of this year’s PhAST/Laser Focus World Innovation Award. The award recognizes the company for integrating adaptive optical technology with microscopic imaging to provide micrometer resolution across a large and dynamically configurable field of view. Thorlabs will be accepting this award and presenting the science behind the development of the Adaptive Scanning Optical Microscope (ASOM) at the CLEO/PhAST Plenary Session on Monday, May 7 at 6:30 p.m. in Ballroom III-IV of the Baltimore Convention Center in Baltimore, Md.

“The PhAST Conference is all about innovative applications in the field of photonics and Thorlabs characterizes this through their cutting-edge products,” said Mike Duncan, PhAST co-chair. “The ASOM is truly a unique innovation in microscopy. Its application will have a significant impact in a variety of areas ranging from biomedical research to industrial inspection.”

The Adaptive Scanning Optical Microscope (ASOM) combines classical microscopy principles with state-of-the-art adaptive optic technology to eliminate the traditional trade-off between magnification and field of view. The ASOM system offers an unprecedented 40mm diameter field of view with consistent resolution of ~1μm throughout. A unique optical scanning technique completely eliminates mechanical motion of the object (specimen) during the image capture process, making it significantly faster than translation stage-based approaches.

This optical, rather than mechanical, nature of the scanning process necessitates constant use of the system’s scan lens at “off-axis” trajectories, an operating condition that introduces distortion of optical waves reaching the microscope as the scan axis departs from the microscope’s optical axis.  In a conventional optical design, such a condition would result in visual distortions and blurriness of captured images, thereby reducing the system's capability to resolve images. 

By contrast, the ASOM employs a MEMS deformable mirror in order to correct wavefront distortions prior to image capture, thus preserving the effective resolving capability of the system throughout its entire optical scan range.  Analogous to those used in telescopes at certain astronomical observatories, the deformable mirror, whose surface is adjusted during the scan process, is capable of introducing precise wavefront distortions that are equal to, but cancel out, those distortions introduced by the system’s optics.  This process effectively nullifies the adverse distortions introduced by the optics themselves, thus providing a crisp image throughout the microscope’s entire scan range.

This unique dynamically adjustable optical scanning technology will provide immediate benefit to a wide range of applications from biological research and pharmaceutical investigation to machine vision and quality control systems, its inventors say.

In addition to the award given to Thorlabs, four honorable mention products were chosen from all entries. The honorable mentions are as follows:

  • Biophotonic Solutions, Inc.
    Unlocking the Power of Femtosecond Lasers Using MIIPS 
    For developing a pulse shaper that can automatically measure and compensate phase distortions that broaden femtosecond laser pulses.
  • Discovery Semiconductors, Inc.
    Kitty Hawk Ultra-Fast Coherent Optical Receiver
    For creating the first commercial coherent optical receiver system.
    The PHAZZLER: A Unique Dual Mode Ultrafast Pulse Shaping and Ultrafast Pulse MeasurementSystem 
    For developing a commercial ultrafast pulse shaping and measurement system that enables the collection and comparison of measurement results using a single instrument.
  • PolarOnyx, Inc.
    The World’s First 10 W Femtosecond Fiber Laser Product 
    For the development of a high-power, ultrashort pulse fiber laser.

The honorable mentions will be recognized by the PhAST chairs during the CLEO/PhAST Plenary Session.

The PhAST/Laser Focus World Innovation Awards Program honors the most timely, ground-breaking products in the field of laser science. Entries are evaluated on criteria critical to product success: impact, functionality, life expectancy, effect on the optics industry, innovation and patents or trademarks.

For more information on the PhAST/Laser Focus World Innovation Award, visit

About PhAST
PhAST is dedicated to presenting the latest breakthroughs in Photonic Applications, Systems and Technologies. Photonics has moved out of the laboratory and into the products and services that have changed our daily lives. PhAST is where engineers and applications specialists receive up-to-the-minute information on industry trends and the next wave of applications. PhAST programming takes places over three days and includes plenary sessions, invited presentations, panel discussions, a leading exhibit, innovation presentations and networking receptions. PhAST is collocated with the Conference on Lasers and Electro-Optics (CLEO) and the Quantum Electronics and Laser Science Conference (QELS), two of the photonic industry's leading conferences covering basic and applied research breakthroughs.

About Laser Focus World
Laser Focus World is a monthly magazine for engineers, researchers, scientists, and technical professionals providing comprehensive global coverage of optoelectronics technologies, applications and markets. Each month, the magazine reports on and analyzes the latest developments and significant trends in both technology and business in the worldwide optoelectronics and photonics industry.

About PennWell Corporation
The publisher of Laser Focus World, PennWell Corporation is a diversified business-to-business media and information company that provides quality content and integrated marketing solutions for the following global industries: oil and gas, electric power, water, electronics, semiconductor, contamination control, optoelectronics, fiber optics, computer graphics, enterprise storage, information technology, fire, emergency services and dental.  Founded in 1910, PennWell publishes 75 print and online magazines and newsletters, conducts 60 conferences and exhibitions on six continents, and has an extensive offering of books, maps, directories, web sites, research, and database services.  In addition to PennWell’s headquarters in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the company has offices in Nashua, New Hampshire; Houston, Texas; London, England and other locations worldwide.