Photonics Startup Cailabs Raises €8 Million

France-based startup Cailabs, whose technology controls the shape of light within optical fibers and increases data speeds by a factor of a thousand, has raised €8 million from Supernova Invest with the participation of Definvest, the Ministry of the Armed Forces fund managed by Bpifrance.  

So far, Cailabs has raised €16.6 million from Innovacom, Kima Venture, Starquest Capital and Safran Corporate Ventures. With this new round of funding, the startup expects to have the necessary resources to develop its product lines at both an industrial and commercial level. “With the maturation of product lines made possible by previous funding, and the increase in production volume, Cailabs is entering a new era that requires strengthening in the areas of sales, support and operations,” said Jean-François Morizur, founder and CEO of Cailabs.

SHAPING THE LIGHT

Cailabs’ founding technology, known as Multi-Plane Light Conversion (MLPC), manipulates the shape of the light. Discovered in 2010 in the Kastler Brossel Laboratory, a French research laboratory specializing in fundamental physics of quantum systems, MPLC was originally meant for multimode quantum optics. It is based on the succession of transverse phase profiles, similar to highly complex lenses, separated by a specific propagation distance. And because it “is a very low loss process,” MPLC can combine and shape multiple light beams. The passive nature of this technology means it can be integrated in systems where reliability is critical.

Principle of Multi-Plane Light Conversion

With its MPLC technique, Cailabs claims data is carried at speeds up to 1,000 times faster on existing fibers. “The standard optical fibers deployed in Local Area Networks see their bandwidth limited to 100 Mbps when they are longer than a few hundred meters,” Morizur told EE Times Europe. “Cailabs has demonstrated up to 14,5 Tbps on multiple kilometers of these fibers, a 145.000 fold increase on their standard limits.”

Instead of communicating on the 14,5 Tbps value, Morizur added, “we prefer to focus on what LAN infrastructure managers can get easily. Standard 10 Gbps or 100 Gbps transceivers are readily available, and with Cailabs technology they can be used on multimode fibers normally capped to 100 Mbps, hence the 1000 fold increase in capacity.”

DEVELOPING MARKETS

While Cailabs served initially telecommunications, it now covers aeronautics, industrial, and automotive markets. 

The Rennes-based startup owns 19 patent families and offers four product lines serving local networks, industry 4.0 and the aerospace and telecom industries. First, Canunda shapes laser beams and is said to improve the productivity of industrial laser machining systems (e.g. cutting, welding, additive manufacturing). “Canunda modules are mainly integrated in industrial laser systems, but the systems themselves are then used in automotive, aerospace and watch-making”. Second, Tilba aims at increasing the quality of open space optical communications by increasing their range and limiting the influence of atmospheric disturbances. It is relevant in some communication scenarii, as well as in aeronautics and industrial applications. Proteus, Cailabs explains, is a spatial mode multiplexer for use in space division multiplexing. Finally, Aroona transforms the multimode optical fibers of the existing infrastructure into single-mode fibers, without replacing the fiber. It applies to telecom and industrial networks. “The value proposition for Aroona is expanding the capacity of multimode fibers in Local Area Networks,” Morizur explained. “These LANs can be industrial sites, universities, hospitals, etc.”

“Activity wise”, Morizur specified, “Canunda represents about 30 percent of our activity, Aroona 30 percent, Custom 30%, Tilba 10% in 2019, but this is expected to change significantly in the next few months.”

The sale of its first system to NASA last year and the recent French Ministry of the Armed Forces funding pose the question of R&D enhanced efforts in the aerospace area. “Cailabs’ R&D efforts in the aerospace market is already significant,” Morazur responded. “Our ongoing partnership with Safran for the next generation of aircraft cabling, as well as partnerships with Skyloom -and others that are not public- make it already a strong part of our R&D activity.” Nonetheless, “the new funding will enable us to move even faster.” 

In the automotive area, Morizur said Cailabs has been working on high-end Lidars and low-end Lidars for quite some time. “Some of these efforts are coming to fruition in enabling amazing new products by our partners.” He did not comment further.