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Santur Corporation was founded in November 2000 to develop and commercialize tunable lasers for fiber optic telecommunications. These were considered timely, as wavelength-division multiplexing (WDM), or adding multiple lanes at different colors into the same fiber for increased capacity was gaining popularity in long haul and metropolitan fiber optic links. A tunable laser could function at any wavelength, eliminating the cost of manufacturing and the logistics of maintaining up to 80 different parts. Given the large venture capital investments of the time, dozens of approaches and technologies were proposed. Competing companies includes Iolon corporation, Agility Communications, and Bandwidth9. Earlier in 2000, another tunable laser company CoreTek had been sold to Nortel Corporation for approximately $1.4B.
Unlike other tunable lasers that have a single cavity that is adjusted to change the wavelength, Santur used an array of 12 or 14 lasers, each at a different wavelength, all fabricated on a single chip at about a ten micrometre pitch. Simply switching between lasers changes the wavelength in a coarse manner. Like most wavelength controlled telecommunication lasers, the laser chip is mounted on a thermoelectric cooler to stabilize the temperature. By making small adjustments to the inside temperature of the package, fine tuning of the wavelength can be realized. Additionally, the Santur laser package contains a micromechanical mirror that deflects in both x and y axes in order to couple the laser beam to the output fiber. This "switch" is necessary since each laser of the array emits at a different output aperture. The micromechanical mirror loosens tolerances needed for packaging and allows the assembly to be put together with coarse tolerances and aligned electronically.
When the optical market improved in 2006, Santur gained substantial market share. Single chip tunable lasers, such those of Agility (part of JDSU) and Bookham Oclaro had gained popularity, but Santurn claimed substantial Internet traffic used their products, of which 200,000 had shipped by 2008.
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