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September 20, 2013

Partnership to advance optical science and engineering

professor and student
Jannick Roland, director of the new center and the Brian J. Thompson Professor of Optical Engineering, works with a graduate student on a freeform lens experiment. “Jannick is ideally suited to lead the new center for freeform optics, which brings university and industrial researchers together to ultimately advance manufacturing,” says Robert Clark, senior vice president for research and dean of the Hajim School.

A new center led by the University will receive over $4 million in combined federal, industry, and academic funding to advance the emerging area of freeform optics. Freeform optics could transform 21st century optical science. Although the production of freeform surfaces became possible just a few years ago, researchers have already identified broad applications, including mobile displays, LED lighting, remote sensing devices and astronomical instrumentation.

“Freeform optics research is applied research and is best done in collaboration with industry—the new center will make this possible,” says Jannick Rolland, director of the center and the Brian J. Thompson Professor of Optical Engineering. Rolland also stressed the role that the center will play in educating optics graduate students. “Innovation in this area will require industry to have well-trained employees who can understand the fundamental research and also how to apply it.”

The center will draw upon expertise in a wide range of areas, including mathematics, optics, materials science, and instrument design to support what is considered pre-competitive research—applied research that shows potential for commercialization, but is an essential step to future technology.

The Center for Freeform Optics brings together Rochester and University of North Carolina at Charlotte with industry partners.

A five-year grant from the NSF Industry/University Cooperative Research Centers Program provides seed funding to both universities to enable industry-university partnerships. The center has also secured partnerships from nine companies, each contributing $48,000 per year towards the collaborative effort. The companies that are members of the center are: AFRL, Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp., NASA Goddard, OptiPro Systems, PolymerPlus, Rochester Precision Optics (RPO), Sandia National Laboratories, SCHOTT North America, and ZYGO Corporation.

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