Published: April 9, 2012

JILA, a joint institute of the University of Colorado Boulder and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), has generated many spinoff companies, including 11 companies in the Colorado Front Range area. The Colorado companies have created more than 140 jobs and a variety of high-tech products used around the world. These contributions to U.S. industry have been made by current and former staff from both JILA partners.




Winters Electro Optics, founded 1993

This family company is operated by Michael Winters, who earned his PhD under JILA/NIST Nobel laureate John (Jan) Hall. The company is located in Longmont and makes frequency-stabilized helium-neon lasers.


High Precision Devices Inc., founded 1993

High Precision Devices is a full-service engineering and manufacturing business specializing in scientific instrumentation -- integrating precision mechanics with optics, cryogenics, electronics and vacuum/ultrahigh vacuum. HPD provides instrument development and manufacturing services to government labs, universities and private companies. In addition, HPD manufactures ultralow-temperature cryostats (cold chambers) used by research physicists worldwide to cool superconducting detectors for astrophysical and other demanding applications. The company was founded by Bill Hollander, who worked in the JILA instrument shop from 1979 until 1990, and who had previously founded and operated Axis Instruments from 1990 until 1993. HPD is located in Boulder and has 22 employees.


Micro-g Lacoste, founded 1993

Micro-g Lacoste offers absolute gravimeters based to a large extent on work done over many years by now-retired JILA Fellow Jim Faller of NIST. The company also offers relative gravimeters, both ground-based and airborne, and performs gravity survey services. Company president Tim Niebauer was a student of Faller’s, and the company uses technology Niebauer and Faller developed at JILA. Faller, now retired from NIST, consults for the company. The commercial effort began as AXIS Instruments, which in 1993 became Micro-g Solutions, which merged with Lacoste Romberg in 2005 to create Micro-g Lacoste. The merged company is located in Lafayette and has a staff of more than 35.


KM Labs, founded 1994

To satisfy demand from other scientists, professors Margaret Murnane and Henry Kapteyn started KM Labs to produce the fastest laser in the world -- the titanium-sapphire femtosecond laser. They joined the JILA and the CU faculty five years later. In its first eight years, KM Labs provided several hundred reliable, low-cost femtosecond lasers to researchers in academia and industry worldwide. The company expanded in Boulder with the commercialization of CU-licensed high-power ultrafast laser technology, and now has a comprehensive product line of ultrafast mode-locked lasers, laser- amplifier systems and X-ray sources for the international research market. The company is based in Boulder and has about 30 employees.


Precision Photonics Corp., founded 2000

Precision Photonics Corp. was founded by scientists from JILA and NIST to produce precision optical components, coatings and assemblies. The staff’s diverse background in spectroscopy, precision metrology, and high-volume manufacturing enables the company to provide high-performance, price-competitive laser optics and coatings to the telecommunications, defense, aerospace, biomedical and semiconductor industries. The company, which is located in Boulder and has 42 employees, ships hundreds of thousands of devices worldwide every year. Founder and CEO Chris Myatt earned his PhD under JILA/CU Nobel laureate Carl Wieman and did his postdoctoral work at NIST on quantum computing with National Medal of Science laureate Dave Wineland.


Vescent Photonics Inc., founded 2002

Vescent Photonics Inc. develops and manufactures electro-optics technologies, tunable lasers, and electronics for precision laser control as well as liquid-crystal waveguides for laser beam steering in communications and laser ranging. Co-founder Michael Anderson was first author of the original JILA paper on the Bose-Einstein condensate in 1995, and his advisor was JILA/NIST Fellow and Nobel laureate Eric Cornell. Co-founder Scott Davis earned his PhD at JILA and also worked at NIST in Gaithersburg, Md. The company is located in Denver and has 13 employees.


Hall Stable Lasers LLC, founded 2004

JILA/NIST Nobel laureate John (Jan) Hall formed this consulting company after his retirement. Among his projects, Hall developed a new approach to sensing biomaterials for BiOptix Diagnostics Inc. (formerly Alpha-Sniffer LLC). The technology, surface plasmon resonance common path interferometer (SPR-CPI), uses a laser but is otherwise quite different from projects Hall worked on at JILA. BiOptix uses the patented technology in a product that analyzes the interactions of biomolecules for applications in biopharmaceutical development, research and potentially molecular diagnostics.


ColdQuanta Inc., founded 2007

ColdQuanta Inc. was founded by JILA Fellow Dana Z. Anderson of CU and three colleagues to commercialize miniaturized ultracold-atom technology. The company sells a magneto-optical trap for use in undergraduate teaching labs as well as a variety of more complex systems for ultracold-atom research. The compact, microchip-based system rapidly produces Bose-Einstein condensates on an atom chip. The Anderson group worked on different aspects of the technology for more than a decade before it was commercialized. Beyond the research market, the technology may be useful in atomic clocks, precision instrumentation, magnetic field sensing, and guidance and navigation systems. The company is located in Boulder.


MBio Diagnostics Inc., founded 2009

MBio Diagnostics Inc. was spun out of Precision Photonics by JILA/NIST alumnus Chris Myatt. MBio aims to deliver technology for rapid, accurate diagnosis for multiple indications with a single drop of blood taken from a patient in a clinic or doctor's office. The company, located in Boulder, is focusing first on infectious disease and developing a full suite of products for HIV diagnosis and management.


Stable Laser Systems LLC, founded 2009

Stable Laser Systems LLC sells frequency-stabilized laser systems, and vacuum and optical hardware for laser stabilization systems. The company works closely with (and is owned in part by the same holding company as) Advanced Thin Films, which makes the associated optical cavities. Stable Laser Systems was founded by Mark Notcutt (a former JILA postdoctoral researcher), Advanced Thin Films, and JILA/NIST Nobel laureate John (Jan) Hall, and is located in Boulder.


Black Hole Visualizations LLC, founded 2010

JILA Fellow Andrew Hamilton of CU, who developed a Black Hole Flight Simulator, created the company to provide scientifically accurate general relativistic visualizations for use in movies and on TV. Customers can license from a library of existing visualizations or commission new visualizations. Visualizations with the Black Hole Flight Simulator first appeared in a digital dome show "Black Holes: The Other Side of Infinity,” which premiered at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science in 2006, and which has been distributed to 120 digital domes worldwide and translated into 12 languages.  Since 2006 visualizations have appeared in several TV science shows, including NOVA and National Geographic.  Visualizations are also featured in a traveling museum exhibit "Black Holes: Space Warps & Time Twists" developed by the Boston Museum of Science, and in a teaching video "Black Holes Explained" by award-winning UC Berkeley professor Alex Filippenko.