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"Lighting a path to the future with nano-optics."

Micro optics and nano optics are optics that have structures smaller than one millimeter, sometimes as small as a few hundred nanometers.  Because light has such short wavelengths, (wavelengths of visible light are typically recognized as between 400 and 700 nanometers), the shapes and features of an optic must be controlled to very small scales in order to make the light do what we want it to do.  This is where micro and nano optics come in.  By creating structures that are a few microns or a few hundred nanometers in size (see some of the pictures above) and by using the principles of refraction and diffraction, Nalux can make micro and nano optics that can perform the functions of beam splitters, beam shapers, anti reflective structures, diffusers, fresnel lenses, microlens arrays, and a host of other functions. 

Obviously, making structures of such a small size isn't done with a hammer and chisel.  The creation of micro optics and nano optics can be accomplished in a variety of ways.  These ways include:  

Mask lithography and plasma etching.
This method of making micro optics and nano optics uses a material called a "photoresist" to cover parts of a material's surface and leave other parts uncovered.  The material, often in the form of a 6" diameter by 1mm thick glass wafer, is then exposed to a reactive plasma that attacks the surface of the wafer etching away the unprotected regions while the photoresist protects the areas of the wafer that we don't want to etch.  After etching, the photoresist is washed away and you end up with a glass wafer with micro structures etched into it's suface creating the micro optics and nano optics.  

Electron Beam Lithography and plasma etching.
This method of fabricating micro and nano optics patterns the photoresist covering on a glass wafer in a different way than does the Mask Lithography method but once the photoresist is in place the etching process to create the structures is the same.  

Single Point Diamond Turning.  
This method of creating micro optics and nano optics is basically uses a type of lathe (picture a lathe in a machine shop) to mechanically machine a surface to create a radially symmetrical optic.  However, a single point diamond turning "lathe" can cost more than $1 million and can create structures smaller than one micron.  This is one of the more common methods for making micro optics and nano optics.  

Diamond Milling.
Diamond milling is a fabrication method for creating micro optics and nano optics that is similar to milling in a standard machine shop except these milling machines cut with a diamond bit and are capable of making structures smaller than one micron in size and can cost over $1 million dollars each. 

Focused Ion Beam.  
This method creates micro optics and nano optics by ablating away a surface using a beam of ions.  Very detailed and intricate structures can be made using this method.  Unfortunately, it is slow so micro optics and nano optics created this way can be very expensive. 

Plastic Injection Molding
This method using traditional plastic injection molding machines to create the micro optics and nano optics used in mass production applications such as the lenses for DVD players.  The actual structure is imparted to the plastics mold by one of the other methods and when the plastic is injected into the mold it conforms to the micro optical pattern of the steel mold.  This is the best method for fabricationg millions of micro optics and nano optics.  

Glass Molding
This is basically the same as plastic injection molding except it produces micro optics and nano optics in glass instead of plastic.  

There are other methods for fabricating micro optics and nano optics but these are some of the more popular methods in use today.  The creation of these micro optics and nano optics is vital for our modern world and you benefit from their existence every day, you just may not know it.  Micro and nano optics are found in the CD players that let us hear our favorite music and in the DVD players we use to watch our favorite movies.  Micro and nano optics are found in the fiber optics telecommunications lines that enable you to browse the internet and read this web page, and they are found in much of the medical laboratory and analytical equipment that helps keep us healthy.  Micro optics and nano optics can be made from glass, plastic, or more advanced materials with very specific properties.  Micro and nano optics are vital to today's military for guidance systems and communications, they are used in astronomy for imaging the furthest galaxies, they help doctors see inside our bodies by making only the smallest of incisions.  So, you can see that micro optics and nano optics are an integral part of modern society and we will see more and more applications as the fabrication technologies develop.

Micro and Nano Optics