04 July, 2024
04 Jul, 2024

30 Years of Excellence: Milestones and Memories 

30 years ago, back in 1994, Light Conversion emerged as a spin-off from Vilnius University Laser Research Center. Initially, the company focused on manufacturing optical parametric amplifiers (OPAs) for titanium sapphire (Ti:sapphire) and yttrium aluminum garnet (YAG) lasers, with their signature TOPAS (Traveling-wave Optical Parametric Amplifier of Super-fluorescence) devices. Some of these OPAs were pumped by Light Conversion’s own laser at that time, the picosecond neodinium (Nd):glass laser called TWINKLE. This expertise stemmed from one of the company’s founders, Prof. Algis Petras Piskarskas, who, as part of the Vilnius University research group, performed the first proof-of-concept experiment on stretching, amplification, and compression of chirped pulses in an optical parametric amplifier back in the early 90s. 

Dr. A. Juozapavičius, Prof. A. P. Piskarskas and Dr. Romas Danielius attending the first trade show in USA with Light Conversion’s signature TOPAS OPA 30 years ago.
Dr. A. Juozapavičius, Prof. A. P. Piskarskas and Dr. Romas Danielius attending the first trade show in USA with Light Conversion’s signature TOPAS OPA.  

“According to Lithuanian folk tales or Ocean’s Eleven, a company is a team where everyone knows how to do different things. It is the same with us: Professor Piskarskas was the one who started it. He had ideas for scientific research, many connections around the world, and was organized,” shares Dr. Romas Danielius, one of the company’s co-founders who remains a key figure in the R&D department to this day.  

“Looking from the current perspective, our dreams were quite modest,” Romas continues. “We lacked the imagination to think that it would evolve to the point we are right now.”

Compared to its early days with modest offices and laboratories at Vilnius University, the company now operates a 17500 sq. m. facility with 600 employees, 15% of whom dedicate their efforts to R&D. The company also has three international offices in the USA, China, and South Korea, with a worldwide network supported by representatives in 25 countries. 

Dr. R. Danielius at Vilnius University laboratory, 1980s.  

Development of the first PHAROS femtosecond laser at Light Conversion, 2006.
Dr. R. Danielius at Vilnius University laboratory, 1980s.  
Development of the first PHAROS femtosecond laser at Light Conversion, 2006. 

“You have to make what people need. Almost 2300 OPAs have already been sold. In 2020, during the pandemic, we shipped our 2000th device, not to mention the lasers…” says Rimantas Grigonis, the former head of the TOPAS product group and senior scientific researcher at Vilnius University. 

The introduction of the Yb-based solid-state PHAROS femtosecond laser in 2006 was a turning point for the company. With over 2000 units sold, this modular-design femtosecond laser source has become an invaluable tool for both industrial companies and researchers worldwide.

“Romas tells me: ‘We need to make something new, let’s make lasers pumped by laser diodes.’ This is how PHAROS was born. My wife, an art historian, came up with the name, so she is very delighted,” reminisces Linas Giniūnas, the former head of laser production at Light Conversion.

That same year marked the opening of the company’s first international office in USA, while in the following years, the product portfolio was expanded with the introduction of FLINT high-repetition-rate femtosecond lasers in 2007, and ORPHEUS OPAs for Yb-based lasers in 2008.  

“I wanted to be a scientist from the very beginning. Perhaps it’s a characteristic trait of people who grew up in Lithuania that being a scientist is considered a significant achievement,”- shares Martynas Barkauskas, the CEO of Light Conversion.

“I remember my supervisor telling me: ‘We received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, and the newspaper didn’t even write about it.’ There was an article about Lithuania drawing 1-1 with Germany, but the news of the Dutch Nobel Prize was only on the seventh page. So maybe this is our chance to get involved in important technical areas.” 

The expertise in femtosecond and OPA technology has enabled Light Conversion to become renowned for its high-energy Optical Parametric Chirped-Pulse Amplification (OPCPA) systems. Although the Chirped-Pulse Amplification (CPA) method, demonstrated by Prof. Gérard Mourou and Prof. Donna Strickland, won them the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2018, Prof. Piskarskas and researchers from Vilnius University described the concept of OPCPA technology back in 1992. They proposed using high-energy pump pulses to amplify a chirped and stretched signal in OPA, boosting the power of femtosecond pulses up to a terawatt level. This technology has been employed by high-level research centers such as ELI-ALPS in Hungary, which boasts SYLOS 3, a 15 TW peak power, 1 kHz repetition rate, and 8 fs pulse duration OPCPA system designed by Light Conversion and Ekspla. Recently, a 25 TW peak power OPCPA system was installed in the laboratory of Anne L’Huillier, the most recent Nobel Prize laureate in Physics for experimental methods that generate attosecond pulses of light. 

Dr. Romas Danielius,  and Prof. Dr. Algis P. Piskarskas in Vilnius University laboratory, 1982. 

Light Conversion’s laser engineer T. Juodagalvis next to the dual-OPCPA system for Lund University, 2023.
Dr. Romas Danielius and Prof. Dr. Algis P. Piskarskas in Vilnius University laboratory, 1982. 
Light Conversion’s laser engineer T. Juodagalvis next to the dual-OPCPA system for Lund University, 2023. 

“Our engineers were working nearby and witnessed the moment when Anne L’Huillier found out she had become a Nobel Prize laureate. It’s special knowing that her team will continue to use our system for impressive research and new scientific discoveries,” shares Gediminas Veitas, the Head of the Service Department. 

Currently, Light Conversion not only boasts state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities and R&D laboratories but also offers a comprehensive product portfolio. This includes femtosecond lasers, OPAs for Yb and Ti:sapphire lasers, spectroscopy systems, microscopy sources, and the aforementioned high-intensity systems. With over 8,000 laser systems installed worldwide, including systems in 96 of the top 100 universities, the company continues to strive for new advancements in femtosecond technology in both industry and science. 

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