Omega Optical embraces a vision that goes beyond designing and fabricating state-of-the-art thin film filters. Our R&D team brings expertise in optical science, physics, chemistry, materials science, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, bioengineering, and software. The group plays a number of roles in the organization including process improvements, specialty measurement techniques, the development of new materials, customer projects, production of coated fiber tips and leading-edge technologies in thin-film photovoltaics and biomedical imaging.
Several product classes have evolved out of the R&D group
These coatings came out of the R&D department's desire for transparent electrodes with specific work functions that were not commercially available during work on a thin-film photovoltaic project. We have produced a number of variations including Indium Tin Oxide (ITO), Indium Zinc Oxide (IZO), Fluorinated Zinc Oxide (FZO) and Zinc Tin Oxide (ZTO) and are continually adding to this list. By choosing the correct material, we are able to tune the reflection edge and electrical properties of the film to meet your needs. TCO development also led to the introduction of a broad-band hot mirror that blocks all the way out into the IR.
An integral part of the Multispectral Scanning System described below, Omega has mastered the ability to coat fiber tips. Nearly any filter can be applied to the tip of a fiber optic (anti-reflection, bandpass, shortpass, longpass, etc) as long as the total thickness of the thin-film stack remains less than about 7 microns. The R&D department has perfected an in-fiber monitoring system and fixturing to enable this technology.
- Coated Fiber Tips for Optical Instrumentation Proc. SPIE 9754 (2016)
- Specifications for Ordering Interference Coatings on Fiber Tips
New materials development
R&D began experimenting with absorbing semiconductors as an integral part of the thin-film photovoltaic project. An offshoot of this work was to develop filters using these materials. An ongoing effort is to fully characterize the complex refractive index values of these materials so predictive models of thin-film stacks can be developed and turned into a product. Absorbing materials can be used to replace colored glass for blocking and to reduce angle-sensitivity of filters.
Our thin-film solar goal centers on creating a photovoltaic (PV) cell prototype enabling significant reductions in module cost and significant increases in module efficiency – leading to acceptable payback times. Key thin films in our cells include perovskites, organic absorbers, and electrodes that are both optically transparent and electrically conductive. We have settled on a thin-film photovoltaic window concept that exploits Omega's expertise in color-balancing to maximize efficiency while maintaining a neutral-colored transparent window. Basic research focuses on glass-to-glass sealing technologies, PV degradation mechanisms and TCO development. Focusing on building-integrated window applications minimizes the cost of substrates and installation. This effort has been co-funded by Omega Optical and the Department of Energy. We have an ongoing collaboration with the University of Vermont's Department of Physics in this area.
Multispectral confocal scanning for surgical margin guidance in breast cancer
Our biomedical goal centers on developing a high-speed fiber-optic based multispectral confocal scanner that can enable real time imaging of cancer at the cellular level. Existing technologies have not combined sufficient spatial, spectral, and temporal resolution in one instrument. Standard imaging spectrometers are not fast enough to generate multispectral images at the speeds required in an operating room (< 1 image/sec). We have already demonstrated the ability to image autofluorescence (intrinsic fluorescence) in a small field of view (500 micron) and 10 wavelength channels within 0.1 s in a microscope format. This was done in collaboration with The Cancer Center and Pathology Departments at the University of Vermont Medical Center. We plan to translate this system into a hand-held probe that will generate larger (5 mm) images by the surgeons in the operating room. The 10 channel images are reduced to a single color-coded image using software algorithms. This will ultimately enable surgeons to assess surgical margins in real-time which should lead to fewer follow-up surgeries. Originally funded with a fast-track SBIR from the National Cancer Institute at the NIH, it has been internally funded since 2011. The technology can also be applied to other types of cancer, as well as to questions in basic research (for instance, neural regeneration studies, developmental biology, etc.) We are open to new collaborations in this area.
- High-Speed Multispectral Confocal Biomedical Imaging Journal of Biomedical Optics (2014)
- Multispectral Endoscopic Imaging Enabled by Mapping Spectral Bands into the Time Domain Frontiers in Optics (2016)
- Multispectral Imaging for Diagnosis & Treatment Proc. SPIE 8947 (2014)
- High-Speed Multispectral Confocal Imaging Proc. SPIE 8587 (2013)
Multispectral imaging flow cytometry
A natural extension of the project described above is the development of a confocal imaging flow-cytometer that can sample up to 12 wavelength bins and 2 scatter channels while the cell is traversing the scanning laser beam. Because the sample is flowing past the illumination/detection system, only a single scanning mirror is required to generate an image. Further, because the system was designed to detect very weak autofluorescence signals, single-cell detection of labeled cells (typical of flow-cytometry) is well within the signal-to-noise. The concept for this system was presented at Photonics West 2018 and won a Pi Photonics Best Paper award. We are actively looking for partners who are experts in flow systems and fluidics to help us move this concept to the next level.