Acquisition Focuses Optical Technology Breakthrough on Commercial Markets

Achievement date: 

New technology that is transforming how optical focusing is performed is on its way to commercial use, thanks to a university-industry collaboration that paved the way for acquisition by the business partner. The technology, Tunable Acoustic Gradient Index of Refraction Lens (TAG Lens), was developed by researchers at Princeton University as part of its work with the NSF-funded Mid-Infrared Technologies for Health and the Environment (MIRTHE) Engineering Research Center (ERC), headquartered at Princeton. Start-up company TAG Optics further advanced the technology, ultimately leading to collaboration with and acquisition by Mitutoyo Corporation, an international company specializing in measuring instruments and metrological technology, headquartered in Kawasaki, Japan. 


Transferring technology from the lab to the market is one of the greatest challenges of innovation. Start-up companies are an important stage in bridging the gap. In the case of TAG Optics, their outreach led them to form a relationship with Mitutoyo. The acquisition solidifies this partnership and enables Mitutoyo to transform the technology to a new proprietary product that can be produced in its measurement business. TAG Optics will continue to provide technical expertise to Mitutoyo while pursuing new markets in biological, inspection, biometric, and machine vision applications.

Traditional optical systems were unable to rapidly change focal position or control depth-of-field independently of magnification. The TAG Lens is a computer controlled adaptive lens that works with existing optical assemblies and can rapidly change focus for any user defined applications, including high resolution imaging, high throughput industrial/biomedical scanning, and laser processing. TAG Lenses can be effortlessly integrated into machine vision, microscopy, or laser processing optical systems. The TAG Lens is easy to use, can be operated using most function generators or directly from the USB output of a portable computer, and can be used synchronously or asynchronously with the light source. TAG Lenses increase throughput and reduce down time due to mechanical system failure, while leveraging existing capital equipment and providing true economic value to the end user.


Through its fundamental research and prototyping in materials, sources, detectors, sensing systems, and applications testbeds, MIRTHE addresses a broad range of technologies and industry sectors—semiconductors  test and measurement, medical equipment manufacturers, chemical and petrochemical, and homeland security—as well as government labs and hospitals. In addition to Princeton, MIRTHE ERC partners include City College New York, Johns Hopkins University, Rice, Texas A&M, and the University of Maryland-Baltimore County.