A Scottsdale research and development company has won a two-year contract from the U.S. Air Force to develop a device that will make high-speed laser communication between satellites possible.
QuantTera was recently awarded a $750,000 contract by the Air Force. The company is about to begin work on developing a specialized photonic integrated circuit that could someday also have civilian applications, said Matt Kim, QuantTera founder and chief executive officer.
“Whatever we do, we’re not trying to do (research and development) for the sake of R&D but (are) doing things that can be manufactured,” Kim said.
A photonic integrated circuit is a computer chip that uses light and a built-in amplifier to send and receive data.
Other types of photonic integrated circuits control temperature or convert light to electronic transmission and reconvert that data back to light.
While not a household term, those type of circuits are becoming a booming business. The Connecticut-based Business Communications Co. states on its Web site: “The market for photonic integrated circuit (PIC) subsystems and components is currently estimated at $4.3 billion.”
The market is expected to grow at an average annual rate of “20.5% to reach almost $11 billion by 2006,” BCC reported.
Kim, a former Motorola scientist, founded QuantTera in 2004. Kim said the company is about to begin work on a prototype of the circuit, and that he is starting negotiations with other companies that will also be involved.
Orbiting satellites use lasers to communicate with each other, but they sometimes have difficulty sharing data at high speeds, Kim said.
The circuit his company intends to design will alleviate that, he said, though it will come in a small package — the chip will be just 10 millimeters long by 5 millimeters wide and 5 millimeters thick.
Unlike laser communication devices used on Earth, the prototype QuantTera intends to develop will have to be able to withstand radiation in order to work, he said.
Kim said the yet-to-bedesigned circuit could have civilian uses, such as speeding up fiber-optic telecommunications.