Intraband, LLC was founded in 2007 to develop QCL products exploiting the bandgap engineering capability and product reliability provided by MOCVD growth. Over the past ten years, working together with the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the company has developed new QCL technologies that enable high-power, high-efficiency, reliable QCL operation with excellent beam quality. The founding team includes Professor Dan Botez, Professor Luke Mawst, Tom Earles, who heads product development, and Rob Marsland who serves as President.
Key Intraband technologies, exclusively licensed from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF), include QCL design approaches the team has used to achieve the highest published CW and peak-pulsed powers from MOCVD-grown QCL single edge emitters. The company also has technologies for surface emitting and coherent arrayed QCLs.
Intraband is based at the University Research Park in Madison, WI, with research operations carried out at the Reed Center for Photonics at UW-Madison. These facilities include the Metal-Organic Chemical-Vapor Deposition (MOCVD) equipment and processing labs critical to QCL fabrication as well as equipment for mid-infrared (4-12 µm) laser characterization. While the company will continue to partner with UW-Madison for advanced research, the product-related semiconductor fabrication is being outsourced to a commercial fabrication facility.
Dan Botez, Scientist, is the Philip Dunham Reed Professor in the ECE Department at the University of Wisconsin (UW)-Madison. At RCA Labs he created novel types of high-power single-mode lasers, one of which became the highest-power commercially available single-mode laser during 1981-1986. In 1990, while Senior Staff Scientist at the TRW, he led the team that “broke” the 1-Watt coherent-power barrier for diode lasers. At UW-Madison his research resulted in high CW power and wall-plug efficiency from near-infrared diode lasers, which became commercial products of Alfalight. Together with Alfalight researchers, he was part of the team that “broke” the 70 % CW wall-plug efficiency barrier (2005), setting a 73 % world record. Since 2002 he has focused on high-power mid-infrared QCLs. He has over 340 refereed publications, holds 56 patents, and is a Fellow of IEEE and OSA.
Director of Product Development
Tom Earles, Director of Product Development, received a M.S. degree from the University of Wisconsin (UW)-Madison in 1996 and continued as a Ph.D. Candidate until 2000 when he left to join Alfalight Inc., a high-power diode-laser development and manufacturing company he co-founded. Tom pursued equity investment for Alfalight concurrent with his Ph.D. Once funded, he assumed the role of Vice President of Operations and managed the build out of Alfalight’s diode-laser chip manufacturing facility in Madison, which produced its first diode lasers 8 months after the ground breaking. In 2001, Tom was promoted to Vice President of Engineering and his responsibilities were expanded to include product development. He led the development of Alfalight’s first Telcordia qualified product, a 980nm pump laser that was 50% higher in power than any other telecom-qualified laser available at the time. Tom was then promoted to Chief Technology Officer of Alfalight in 2003. As CTO, he was responsible for product development, government and commercial research programs. He retained engineering and operations responsibilities for the first year in this new role. His teams were awarded $15M in research and development contracts and grew revenue to $5 M annually.
Robert Marsland, President, has been a cofounder and leader in several technology companies and responsible for numerous successful product launches. He was one of four co-founders at New Focus, Inc. in 1990 and launched an award-winning high-speed photodetector product line. He led design efforts for tunable laser controllers there and later patented a miniaturized QCL laser controller while working with Daylight Solutions. New Focus, Inc. had a successful exit with its March 2000 IPO and later technology sales to Bookham, Intel, and Finisar. He was the founder of Optametra, LLC in 2007 as well as co-founder of Intraband, LLC the same year. At Optametra he led the development and launch of the company’s optical modulation analyzer for complex optical signals. Optametra was sold to Tektronix, Inc. in 2011.
Luke J. Mawst
Luke J. Mawst, Scientist, is a Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has more than 25 years of professional experience in compound semiconductor materials and devices and has produced more than 250 publications and 26 patents issued in this field. He is a Fellow of IEEE (2011). Prof. Mawst has industrial experience as well as extensive experience with technology transfer between university and industry. Specifically, he was a founder of Alfalight Inc. of Madison, Wisconsin; a manufacturer of high power semiconductor lasers which have demonstrated world record power conversion efficiency. His expertise is in semiconductor materials growth using MOCVD, device design, and complex device fabrication.
History of Company
The QCL was first realized by Bell Labs researchers using Molecular Beam Epitaxy (MBE) back in 1994 and by 2004 there were commercially available QCL devices providing CW, near room-temperature operation. However, the slope efficiency of these lasers would drop markedly with temperature, making Watt-level, CW output powers impractical. About this time, University of Wisconsin (UW)- Madison Professors Dan Botez and Luke Mawst began to experiment using MOCVD to make QCLs based on their prior successes on making deep-well resonant tunneling diodes and intraband-transition mid-IR LEDs with MOCVD growth on GaAs. After switching to the InP material system in 2005, the UW group achieved QCL lasing.
Realizing that they could now bring the full weight of their experience in high-power, high-reliability, MOCVD-grown near-IR lasers to the QCL, Professors Botez and Mawst decided to start Intraband, LLC in 2007, assisted by former New Focus, Inc. co-founder Rob Marsland. The team received a Phase I STTR from the ARMY in 2010 and Phase II in 2011 to on-chip coherently beam combine QCLs, based on their prior success with phase-locking arrays of near-IR diode lasers. This also provided the opportunity to further develop their concept for suppression of carrier leakage which Prof. Botez theorized was limiting QCL CW power. Local entrepreneur and former Botez PhD student, Tom Earles, joined in 2011 to drive product development for Intraband. In 2012, they implemented a new deep-well, taper active-region (TA) design that essentially suppressed carrier leakage. They demonstrated that the devices’ electro-optical characteristics become much less sensitive to temperature, allowing for significantly more powerful and efficient CW operation. In 2013 a further QCL-design refinement was the invention of step-taper active-region (STA) design that allows for both carrier-leakage suppression and fast carrier extraction, which soon after was shown to have the potential to dramatically raise the upper limits in QCL CW power and wall-plug efficiency.
The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF) provided funding in 2015 for a realistic product demonstration which in turn led to additional ARMY funding for reliability testing. Using the STA approach, the company has achieved 2.6 W CW single-facet power and peak pulsed single-facet powers as high as 8 W in 2017. These results represent the best published CW and peak-pulsed power results from MOCVD-grown QCL material.
Phase I & II STTR Awards
In parallel, in 2012 and 2013, Intraband received Phase I and Phase II STTR awards from the Navy for developing grating-coupled surface-emitting (GCSE) QCLs and phase-locked arrays of GCSE QCLs. As a result, a novel type of GCSE device was invented, and its reduction to practice in 2015 resulted in two orders of magnitude higher single-lobe, surface-emitted power than previously reported.
Today, Intraband, LLC is in discussions with lead-customers, suppliers, and collaborators to determine what products to release commercially. Intraband’s competitive advantage is built on the UW-Madison approach to suppression of carrier leakage, which is key to achieving high-power QCL CW operation. Intraband has an exclusive license to this approach including implementations with surface emission and coherent beam combining.