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Optics & Photonics — Ultrasensitive Instrument Design — Analog Electronics

ElectroOptical Innovations News

Here's some of what's been going on at EOI lately. Send me an email and let's talk about your application.

Last updated February 14, 2015: At trial in TAOS v Intersil

ElectroOptical Innovations LLC, 160 North State Road, Suite 203, Briarcliff Manor, NY 10510 (914) 236-3005

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At Trial in TAOS v Intersil
February 2015: I'm testifying in my first trial, as an expert witness on the trade secret side of a complicated lawsuit alleging patent infringement, trade secret misappropriation, among other things. As a technical expert, I have to sit through the whole three-week trial to make sure I don't miss any relevant testimony, even though I'll probably be on the stand for no more than three or four hours. It's actually pretty interesting.
Coherent Laser Radar for Vehicles and Navigation
February 2015: Coherent laser radar (often miscalled lidar) is an ultrasensitive method for measurement of distance and radial velocity. It uses low power CW lasers and has excellent resistance to ambient light and interference from other laser radars. I'm doing a design for a unit suitable for vehicles and small ships (e.g. tugboats).
Doubling the Resolution of Solid Immersion Microscopes
December 2014: This is a very exciting development, in cooperation with a semiconductor equipment manufacturer, I'm building a visible-light scanning microscope with six times higher lateral resolution than is possible with a normal microscope. It's based on my Ph.D. thesis work and some things I did at IBM long ago.
Partially disassembled particle counter Summary Judgment Granted In Yufa v. Lockheed Martin
December 23, 2013: Based in large part on my expert reports and reverse engineering of accused products, our Motion for Summary Judgment was granted. In the order, Judge Beverly O'Connell stated that the defendant "...has shown that Plaintiff has failed to produce evidence to support his claims for patent infringement."

This is especially satisfying to me, since although I had been retained only in September, the case had been dragging on for over six years, and a previous motion for summary judgment had been denied. (The only drawback is that I had been looking forward to testifying in January.)
Plate reader Three New Projects
December 23, 2013: Three interesting new engineering projects have come in: a microplate reader subsystem for water quality assays; a sensor front end with very stringent size, weight, and power (SWaP) constraints; and a scanning microscopy development system.

(Picture credit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Microplate_reader.jpg)
Banyan solar concentrator picture New expert case: Morgan Solar v Banyan Energy
December 20, 2013: I've been retained by Banyan in a patent interference case regarding concentrator-type solar collectors.

ISICL picture
Hypervelocity ISICL
September 12, 2013: I'm building a greatly upgraded ISICL In Situ Coherent Lidar sensor for finding small hypervelocity debris in laser-ablation EUV systems used in semiconductor lithography.
The photon budget shows that the revised sensor should be capable of finding individual particles smaller than 0.2 μm diameter, moving at up to 3 km/s, i.e. Mach 9. This is especially exciting since ISICL is such an old friend, and one that I think deserves to have much wider use. At this writing (October 9) the 1-watt YAG laser and the 22 GHz spectrum analyzer have come in, and I'm working on the optical details and waiting for the 10 GHz photodiodes. Fun stuff.
Two Hens Blood Sensor for Egg Grading System
October 9, 2013: I'm designing a spectral-differencing sensor for use in high speed egg-grading machines, to detect blood spots in eggs. This is an interesting problem because it's dominated by nuisance data. Nuisance data are sample variations that produce a signal but aren't what we care about measuring. In this case, porphyrins in brown eggshells have strong absorption features that overlap those of haemoglobin.
I've ordered a small CCD spectrometer to measure a bunch of eggs and a bunch of optical sources.
Since eggs are such a basic foodstuff, there's a fair amount of literature on this, but the net is that there's an accessible haemoglobin absorption feature near 577 nm that can be distinguished from absorption on the red side due to protoporphyrin (the brown-egg pigment) and the normal high absorption of all eggs on the blue side. It's an interesting problem because of the ancillary constraints: it has to be easy to clean and disinfect, has to work in room lights, and has to cope with a 1000:1 absorption range (3 absorption units). Oh, and of course it has to be accurate, reliable, inexpensive, and easy to service.
Partially disassembled particle counter Another Expert Case: Yufa v. Lockheed Martin
September 12, 2013: On a somewhat related topic, I've been retained as a testifying expert representing Lockheed Martin in an action for alleged patent infringement in particle counters. Lockheed makes systems for tracking clouds of larger particles in public spaces, e.g. possible biological terror attacks. So far I've written them one expert report and one declaration, and done some interesting reverse engineering of accused products.
Gavel and documents picture The mountain hath been in labour....TAOS v Intersil is going again
May 28, 2013: After almost exactly three years waiting for a claim construction ruling, this case has gotten started again. I'm working on the trade secret side of a complicated suit arising out of a contemplated acquisition that wasn't completed.
Spectrometer picture
SWIR Spectrometer for Biomedical Measurements
May 25, 2013: I just shipped a proof-of-concept prototype for a fibre-coupled, grating-based transcutaneous short-wave infrared (SWIR) spectrometer. This was a fun one, and demonstrated once again the vital importance of a good photon budget to a successful instrument design. The right tradeoff of complexity, resolution, and stability was not at all obvious at the beginning. The photon budget made clear that with the right grating, the right number of illumination and detection fibres, and the right detector, we'd have an economical design with lots of light for the measurement. One key result of the photon budget was that we could use an uncooled extended (2.6 μm cutoff) InGaAs detector, but that it had to be stabilized near room temperature.

Everything hinged on how stable we could make the detector temperature in a compact unit. Putting the integrating servo amp on the cold plate (with its own dissipation stabilized) gets rid of all the major sources of error: thermocouple potentials due to temperature gradients in the wiring, and DC offset drift in the amplifier. A fun project, and looks like being a great success.

New PCB Designer: Magdalen Hobbs
May 16, 2013: Magdalen has just graduated from the University of Toronto, and joins us as a trainee in printed-circuit board layout and graphical design for some of our proprietary products.
Gavel and documents picture Another New New Expert Case
February 22, 2013: I've been retained in NTRI v LG Electronics et al., another optical disc patent infringement case.
Gavel and documents picture Two New Expert Cases, One Settles
December 10, 2012: A case I've been working on since
March 2012, DCG Systems v Checkpoint Technologies, has settled, and I've been retained in two others, ThinkOptics v Nintendo et al. (helping ThinkOptics with an inter partes reexamination), and Voxpath RS v Desay et al. (defending Samsung in an optical disc case).


Surface voltage figure

Two New Front Ends for Scanning Surface Voltage Tool
November 19, 2012: I'm designing two brand new front ends for a scanning surface voltage tool for semiconductor manufacturing. Normally there are two ways you can measure surface potential—the vibrating Kelvin probe, which gets you the actual voltage but is very slow, or the fast-scan method, which is fast but gets you only the 1-D derivative of the potential.

Working with a leading semiconductor tool vendor, I've come up with both an improved transimpedance front end and (more interestingly) a new class of front end amplifiers that should be able to get the actual voltage like the Kelvin probe while going fast like the scanning method, while providing at least 15 dB SNR improvement over either one.

Update, March 3 2013: The TIA is done, and the new concept is underway.


Glucose Biochip from Brown University

Photonic Biochips
September 19, 2012: We've just started a collaboration with a prominent biotech company in California on spectroscopic-detection biochips using photonic waveguides. Our part of the effort is to explore the design space and come up with new topologies to maximize signal-to-noise ratio and measurement stability. This is an excellent application for POEMS as well as being an exciting new area for us.
(We can't show ours due to NDA requirements--this is a cool one from Brown University that uses plasmonics.)

pHEMT preamp noise voltage Some of Our Current and Recent Work
Complete instrument designs, feasibility calculations, optical and electronics research, expert witness cases.... This one is a just-completed design for a wideband current-sensitive preamp capable of measuring 1 nA in a 100-MHz bandwidth, with near shot-noise performance. (1 nA for 10 ns is 62 electrons.)
EOI's Summer Intern: Simon Hobbs
Sophomore in Engineering Physics at the University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT

June 1, 2012: Simon is currently working on hardware and firmware for data acquisition and instrument control for lab systems and some of our proprietary products.

Photo of EOI
offices EOI Has New Premises:
160 North State Road, Suite 203, Briarcliff Manor, NY


I'm happy to announce that as of July 1, 2011, EOI is now in a larger and more convenient space, still in Briarcliff. As you can see in this photo tour, it provides a much larger lab area as well as a library/storage area and a second office for visitors and perhaps a colleague.

EOI is very well equipped for electronic, photonic, and electro-optical design and prototyping, from the infrared to the ultraviolet and from DC to 20 GHz. I have a very large and varied collection of optical, mechanical, and electronics parts of all sorts, that allows me to try new ideas out very quickly.
PH200 picture



PH200 Noise Plot


New Product: PH200 Nanowatt Photoreceiver

April, 2011: Besides the do-it-yourself photoreceivers below, I am introducing a new line of electro-optical products in cooperation with Highland Technology, a cutting-edge instruments company in San Francisco. The first product is a shot-noise limited nanowatt free space photoreceiver with quantum-limited sensitivity from 60 nW to 100 μW and an honest 1 MHz bandwidth (3 MHz on the 100 μW range). For photocurrents below a microamp, it's significantly better than even the bootstrapped cascode, and it comes in a nice module that fits your setup easily and has normal normal 1/4-20 and M6 threaded mounting holes.

It doesn't have some microscopic photodiode, either; the photosensitive area is 7 mm2, making alignment pretty easy even with very weak beams.

It uses a novel photon-coupled architecture, i.e. it's a current feedback design based on an interesting new wrinkle on the optocoupler. Normally if you use photocurrent feedback to avoid resistor Johnson noise, you pay at least 3 dB of SNR because the feedback photocurrent has full shot noise. The PH200 has some circuit tricks inside that actually suppress the shot noise of the feedback photocurrent by 3 dB,(*) resulting in truly shot noise limited overall performance for the unit, as you can see from the plot--asymptotically the SNR is within 1.8 dB of the input signal's shot noise.

(*) No, this is not impossible—it involves wiring three photodiodes in series, and dealing with their tendency to fight each other.

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Send me an email and let's talk about your application. Comments, corrections, suggestions, or questions are also welcome.

ElectroOptical Innovations LLC, 160 North State Road, Suite 203, Briarcliff Manor, NY 10510 (914) 236-3005