Out Of This World: Potsdam develops state-of-the-art technology for NASA to control light and space images | Top Stories

When you think of the North Country, you probably don’t think of the top companies that work with NASA. But maybe you should learn what Potsdam-based Phoebus Optoelelectronics is all about.

Dr. David T. Crouse founded Phoebus in 2002 as its founder and CEO, but grew up with the idea that he grew up studying undergraduate studies at Purdue, where he studied optics.

“I started doing research on Purdian optics, which led me to look for the best postgraduate optoelectronics programs, which led me to Cornell,” he said.

That’s where they started with metamaterial research and other optical devices for engineering.

“What interested me there was that I love doing heavy physics, but I really loved the applied nature of optics, and even a field called optoelectronics,” he said. “I thought there was amazing physics at the nanometer scale that can be used to control light, and I can use my love of physics to do something that affects humanity.”

Mr. Crouse understands that there are many technical terms that go along with this project, and so he explains:

“Optics is the study of the behavior of light, and optoelectronics is making materials that generate, drive, and detect light,” he said.

Phoebus Optoelectronics therefore makes light-controlling devices – Phoebus being the Greek sun god.

In particular, he said companies are interested in optical filters designed by Phoebus, which Phoebus does for NASA and other organizations.

“People know what light filters are, for example, when it comes to sunglasses,” Mr. Crouse explained. “Well, we take that to the extreme.”

He said that NASA wants to be able to get light that has only one specific color to reach a certain pixel in the camera system and distinguish the full color spectrum in images, so Phoebus makes computer-chip-sized filters that can do this.

“Normally, the size of a microwave is required to perform at least this filtering function, but we have reduced the size of the necessary instrument to a computer chip,” he said.

This size reduction makes it cheaper for NASA to send satellites into space and take pictures.

More importantly, filtering the light from the images helps NASA identify different atmospheric gases, which could benefit climate change research.

He said this is because different gases will be emitted in different colors.

“So if you see a sharp line in a certain color or wavelength, you know that carbon dioxide is there. If you see a peak in a different color, that means methane. ”

All gases, he said, have these spectral signatures, and identifying them can help NASA control the gases that contribute to climate change.

That’s not the only thing optoelectronic devices can use, though.

Mr. Crouse said Phoebus is developing custom optical devices for various government agencies and private corporations including NIH, Air Force, Army, Army, Raytheon, Ball Aerospace and more.

In fact, Mr. Crouse and colleague Michael Fiddy created another organization: the National Science Foundation Industry University Collaborative Research Center (IUCRC) for Metamaterials to think about potential uses for optoelectronic devices.

Mr. Crouse stressed how he could not do all this on his own. He was joined by Dr. Igor Bendoym, Phoebus, a senior optical engineer at Optoelectronics.

The two met at CUNY, where Mr. Crouse was a professor at one time, and where Mr. Bendoym did his undergraduate studies in his laboratory.

“He soon became my best optical modeler,” said Mr. Crouse, “so I invited him to continue on board as the company’s chief modeler … he’s the best optical modeler I’ve ever met.”

Mr Bendoym, who recently defended his PhD at Clarkson University, said working with Phoebus and his partners was “tremendous”.

“When you’re a kid learning about NASA, you know that not everyone can be an astronaut, but you can still help NASA’s mission in other ways,” he said.

“What we’re doing is for humanity, and for humanity to move forward.”

Mr. Crouse made sure to mention Dr. Lori Lepa, who is Phoebus ’main manufacturer.

“It makes all of our devices work,” he said.

“We do all of our manufacturing at Cornell’s amazing CNF center, and we’ve been using their excellent facilities throughout our company’s existence.”

He also wanted to mention Nicole Avallone, whom Mr. Crouse described as Phoebus’s “aid and contracts and regulator.”

“We have to comply with all of these regulations for sensitive technologies, and it’s very important for our organization,” he said.

“It takes as much time as we spend designing our devices to make sure we don’t break the rules,” Mr. Bendoym said.

In addition to the people, Mr. Crouse said Phoebus Optoelectronics owes a lot to other organizations.

Phoebus said at his IUCRC Center for Metamaterials, an example of a “success story,” which is a National Science Foundation program, and hopes that other new technology businesses will follow suit.

“Phoebus is an example of the real return on investment, and we want other businesses to think hard about joining these programs and sharing the same success.”

“Many of our concepts start out as small research grants from the Metamaterials Center. When we show that a concept has promise, we reach the next phase of NASA’s ACT program, then we develop an instrument that will go on one of NASA’s satellites through the Instrument Incubator Program, “he said.

“So there’s a family of organizations that we take advantage of and use.”

Phoebus is also an example of the success of the Science, Technology and Innovation Division of Empire State Development, known as NYSTAR, which provides funding to the Clarkson Center for Advanced Materials Processing, which provides resources to Phoebus.

In addition to launching Phoebus Optoelelectronics, Mr. Crouse has been a professor at Clarkson since 2015, where he headed the department of electrical and computer engineering until 2018.

There, she incorporates her knowledge and experience of running Phoebus into her classes so that students can gain relevant and competitive skills before entering the world of work.

“We really strive to bring these experiences to the classroom to make relevant learning materials where students can be taught the up-to-date skills used in the industry,” he said.

“At Clarkson, we focus on real research and gain real experience that makes students attractive to the industry.”

“You always hear that what you learn in college will never be used in the industry,” Mr. Bendoym added.

“But you’re not going to hear that from Clarkson students.”

Mr. Crouse hopes to bring more company to Clarkson, or perhaps more to Clarkson.

“We want to continue and build on our success, and get a bigger academic team at Clarkson here, do more research projects and different aspects of instrument development,” he said.

“We would love to see more of the full development here at Clarkson.”

One reason for this, Mr. Crouse said, is that in addition to the benefits of education, the field of optoelectronics has a bright future, in the absence of a better word.

“Light-controlling technologies will only be deployed,” he said.

“Sensors are moving from driverless cars to cameras, so there’s a lot of potential for growth.”

He said optoelectronic sensors are “ubiquitous” and will be “more” in the future.

Meanwhile, Mr. Crouse still has a passion and fear for the technology he works with.

“We love working with companies to solve their optical problems and develop new technologies,” he said.

“It’s wonderful to get up and realize that the work you’re doing has an impact on technologies that will allow us to do amazing things in the future,” he said.

“It’s very gratifying to be able to do that.”

As a member of Amazon, I earn money from shopping.


Leave a Comment