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UAH Partners in Integrated Photonics Institute Effort

The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) has partnered with four other research universities and a consortium of photonics industry leaders in an effort to win a $110 million federal contract for an integrated photonics institute that would be housed in the $70 million Florida Advanced Manufacturing Research Center (FAMRC) being built near Kissimmee, Fla.

by University of Alabama in Huntsville
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Dr. Robert LindquistAssociate vice president for research and economic development Dr. Robert Lindquist heads the effort for UAH.University of Alabama in Huntsville"It would be a national resource for developing innovations in the manufacturing of photonics systems," says Dr. Robert Lindquist, UAH associate vice president for research and economic development, who is spearheading the effort for the university. "It's meant as a collaborative government, academic and commercial enterprise to merge photonics expertise and resources into an industry focused effort to strengthen U.S. manufacturing."

The University of Central Florida (UCF) would be the home institution for the proposed Photonics Research Institute for Sustainable Manufacturing (PRISM), which would develop advanced photonics manufacturing innovations with the goal of lowering cost, improving packaging and performance and increasing availability.

FAMRC, the 100,000-square-foot state of the art advanced manufacturing research facility being built in Osceola County, Fla., is anchored by $120 million in investments already committed by UCF, Osceola County, the Florida High Tech Corridor Council and Enterprise Florida. The facility is to be managed by the International Consortium for Advanced Manufacturing Research (ICAMR), a non-profit industry-led consortium.

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Additional partners in the PRISM effort are the Georgia Institute of Technology, Clemson University and the University of Illinois. PRISM is gearing up to submit its full proposal to the federal government by March 31.

Working in a field that includes optics, lasers, imaging and fiber information systems and involves the generation, emission, transmission, modulation, signal processing, switching, amplification and detection or sensing of light, photonics researchers have developed a wide array of products with promise in the marketplace. The challenge now is how to efficiently package and manufacture them at attractive prices.

"The basic idea is that you can make a lot of progress in growing the commercial opportunities of photonics systems if you focus on the manufacturing and packaging processes," Dr. Lindquist says. "The goal is to achieve a speed and maturity of product cycle, from system design to manufacturing, that is similar to what is seen in the semiconductor industry."

PRISM is competing with several other universities nationwide to land the contract for the federal Integrated Photonics Institute for Manufacturing Innovation (IP-IMI), which the government describes as "an effort to establish a state-of-the-art facility in the design, manufacture, testing, assembly and packaging of complex photonic integrated circuits that combine a variety of photonic and electronic components to achieve functionality."

The contract winner will be tasked with strengthening the U.S. manufacturing base by developing innovations utilizing photonics circuits and identifying and overcoming obstacles in fabrication, packaging, testing and validation.

PRISM has attracted the interest of more than 55 companies in the photonics field and is seeking additional industry partners.