Following Laser World of Photonics 2022, we spoke with Matthias Sachsenhauser from Hamamatsu Photonics about the role of laser-driven light sources in the future of the photonics sector. We also discuss the importance of R&D, their Innovation Award finalist ORCA-Quest camera, and the steps that can be taken to enable photonics innovation in the years to come.
Please could you introduce yourself and tell us about your role within Hamamatsu?
My name is Matthias Sachsenhauser, and I am 36 years old. After completing my Ph.D. in physics, I joined the German subsidiary of Hamamatsu Photonics in 2016 to work as a Technical Sales Engineer. I am a member of the components sales group for industrial applications, with a particular focus on semiconductor-related topics.
Could you provide an overview of the products and solutions Hamamatsu provides?
Hamamatsu Photonics is a Japanese company located in Hamamatsu City. We are a leading company in the photonics industry, and our product line-up covers a wide range of light sources (including X-ray, UV, visible, NIR and MIR) as well as photodetectors such as photodiodes, image sensors, photomultipliers, spectrometers etc.
Our portfolio is composed of more than 15,000 products, and does not only include components, but also modules and fully integrated systems.
One of our key strengths is our capability to customize specific products for advanced applications across a range of industries, including non-destructive testing, semiconductors and automotive manufacturing, medical analysis and academic research.
Hamamatsu invests at least 9% of its yearly revenue into research and development. Why is it so important to maintain a close relationship with research, and what impact does this relationship have on a company’s ability to advance?
Hamamatsu’s mission is to benefit society through the development of cutting-edge technologies which can generate and measure different types of light. Such photonics technologies are indispensable for advancements in artificial intelligence, robotics, autonomous driving, quantum technology, etc.
To remain on the forefront of technology development and novel applications, it is essential to expand our understanding of the true nature of light. As a result, we invest close to 10% of our annual revenue in R&D. This enables us to continuously provide the highest quality products and pursue the seemingly limitless potential of light technology in order to support the advancement of human health, science and technology.
The ultimate in quantitative imaging by ORCA-Quest qCMOS camera
The ultimate in quantitative imaging by ORCA-Quest qCMOS camera © HAMAMATSU PHOTONICS
Hamamatsu’s ORCA-Quest qCMOS camera has been chosen as a finalist for the Laser World of Photonics’ Innovation Award. Could you tell us more about this product and what distinguishes it from others?
The ORCA-Quest camera uses a 2D back-illuminated CMOS image sensor and is designed to have an incredibly low noise level. In fact, the photoelectric noise is reduced to a level below the signals generated by photons, making it the world’s first qCMOS camera to achieve 2D photon-number-resolving measurements. With this, the user can accurately measure the number of photons to create an image.
This is hugely important in quantitative imaging, in which the lower detection limit of the camera is set by the photoelectric noise. The ORCA-Quest allows to image phenomena such as quantum entaglement, and can therefore bring a significant contribution to driving technological innovations in e.g., quantum computing. In addition, due to its ability to capture ultra-low level light level features, the ORCA-Quest will be a powerful tool in various scientific applications such as biophotonics or astronomical research.
You have conducted a talk at Laser World of Photonics that focuses on a ‘next-generation’ of laser-driven light sources for industry and research. What is this technology, and which sectors will benefit the most from this technology?
Laser-Driven light sources (LDLS) are a new generation of broadband light sources, which emit photons in a continuous spectrum from the deep UV to infrared wavelength range.
To generate this broadband light, an arc lamp creating a Xenon plasma is used. However, in contrast to conventional arc lamps, which are operated by running a current through their electrodes, an LDLS sustains the plasma by focusing a laser into the light bulb.
In the last few years, laser-driven light sources have emerged as industry standards within semiconductor manufacturing worldwide for applications such as advanced lithography or metrology. However, its unique features also make the LDLS a good choice in other sectors, such as sensor calibration and testing, life science, environmental sensing or spectroscopy. Last but not least, LDLS has become extremely popular in the academic world, with more than 500 research topics published.
© Maryna Stamatova/Shutterstock.com
What aspects of laser-driven systems make them especially suitable for this application, and how do they compare to existing technologies?
Generally, laser-driven light sources can be compared to existing broadband light source technologies such as halogen lamps, Xenon arc lamps or deuterium lamps. In contrast to these established technologies; however, the technology of an LDLS creates several unique features.
First of all, the output of an LDLS is extremely broad, covering a wavelength range from 170 to 2500 nm. There are new product versions that extend the wavelength range even more, both into the VUV and the MIR range.
Second, an LDLS has a very high spectral radiance across its spectrum, making it a great light source for all applications requiring high throughput.
Furthermore, the light-emitting spot of an LDLS is only approximately 100 µm in diameter with unmatched spatial stability, which is key when one wants to couple the light into small diameter fibers or narrow spectrometer slits.
Finally, due to its operating principle, the lifetime of an LDLS bulb is extremely long compared to other types of broadband light sources. In fact, the LDLS is designed for continuous 24/7 operation for over a year. This is of huge importance for all applications in which system downtime is a cost factor, semiconductor manufacturing certainly being the most prominent example.
There are different types of light sources on the market, which offer some of these features. However, the LDLS is the only one that combines all of them in a single light source: this is what makes it so unique.
Furthermore, the features of the LDLS can be exploited to build advanced system-level products. For example, we have just released a new product called “Chromatiq Spectral Engine”, which uses the LDLS technology to allow the emulation of any arbitrary spectrum with unmatched resolution and speed.
Hamamatsu offers a broad range of products covering both light sensors and light sources. What do the next ten years look like for Hamamatsu? Are there any innovations you are striving towards?
This is a great question. As you point out, we are one of the only companies in the world that offer such a broad product portfolio, from detectors to light sources. Additionally, we can apply our extended portfolio to offer greater options for customization, all in close cooperation with our customers and partners. This approach makes me confident that Hamamatsu Photonics will maintain and expand its leading role within the photonics industry.
In terms of innovations, it is difficult to pinpoint a specific example because R&D has become incredibly diverse and dynamic. In this context, Hamamatsu Photonics is running a Central Research Laboratory (CRL), which focuses on what we call “Life Photonics”.
The CRL is defining sustainability as a cornerstone of photonics development and aims to contribute to a future in which there is a balance between our planet, its people and all living things.
In your opinion, what are the major challenges that limit the advancement of the photonics sector and how might they be overcome?
The answer to this is complex. From my perspective, I do not believe the major challenges are technological because the ability for people to create and innovate is almost unlimited. We are using technologies and products in our daily life that were unconceivable 10 or 20 years ago.
On the other hand, based on discussions within the industry, it seems one major challenge potentially limiting the advancement of the photonics sector lies in the availability of a skilled workforce in R&D and engineering, just like many other industries.
The key to overcoming this challenge is to invest in education, primarily in STEM subjects. People at a young age should experience that the photonics sector is a fascinating industry with a bright future.
During your time at Hamamatsu, what has been your favorite project to be involved with?
This question brings me back to the laser-driven light sources. This technology was developed by an American-based company called Energetiq Technology, which Hamamatsu Photonics acquired a few years ago.
I had the privilege of being involved in this transition process, which was exciting, both from a technological and sales point of view. I enjoy contributing to driving LDLS sales in the European market, in particular by working on new application fields which we could not access before.
About Matthias Sachsenhauser, Ph.D.
Matthias earned a Master’s degree and Ph.D. in Engineering Physics. He has been working at Hamamatsu Photonics in Germany since 2016 as a Technical Sales Engineer for optoelectronic components and is a member of Hamamatsu’s Industrial Sales Group. Matthias has particular focus on semiconductor applications, electron microscopes and laser-driven light sources
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