Skip To Content

Optica Corporate Member Profile: Vertilas

Kiran Balan, Research & Program Development Coordinator, Optica

Vertilas is one of the leading global providers in the field of long-wavelength vertical-cavity surface-emitting laser (VCSEL) diodes. Based in Garching, Germany, the company supplies laser products for gas sensing, optical communications, and customer-specific applications. Optica enjoyed an engaging discussion with CEO Christian Neumeyr to learn more.

Could you tell us a little bit about Vertilas and your role within the company?

Vertilas is a specialized company for vertical cavity surface emitting laser technology, in particular long wavelength VCSEL with a wavelength from 1.3 µm to 2.3 µm based on InP material. The founding team of researchers from the TUM/WSI around Prof. Markus-Christian Amann has successfully pioneered research of long wavelength VCSELs since the late 90’s. In 2001, Vertilas has been established as a spin-out from the university to start the development of commercial products.  It is very challenging to develop and manufacture long wavelength VCSELs and as a result only very few companies worldwide succeeded in this field.

To address several markets and various applications, we develop and produce Near Infrared NIR lasers with a wide variety of wavelengths and packaging options. Our product portfolio consists of more than 12 standard wavelengths, ranging from 1.28 µm all the way up to 2.3 µm. In addition, we produce lasers with application or custom specific wavelengths, as well as performance parameters optimized for different requirements. This is complemented by a variety of packaging options, e.g. uncooled and cooled (with an integrated thermo-electric cooler) laser packages and optical sub-assemblies based on single mode fibers.

Vertilas is proud of contributing VCSEL technology innovation for photonic markets since its foundation over 20 years ago.  had the luck to join Vertilas during the early years and drive our product innovation and commercial growth for around 17 years now, being appointed CEO in 2006. I was introduced to the company by its co-founder, Prof. Markus-Christian Amann in 2002, when I was working in the USA for a communications technology company and scouting for novel component technologies. After returning to my home town Munich, the company’s board contacted me to drive Vertilas’ strategy and business and product development. Over time I also got more and more involved in the details of this fascinating and exciting technology development.


What are some key or recent breakthroughs Vertilas has experienced with the technology?

Vertilas is one of the very few companies that has succeeded to develop and launch commercial long wavelength VCSEL products. We are successfully marketing and producing VCSELs for the gas sensing markets for over 15 years, having established a broad customer base worldwide. Our lasers are extremely power efficient and feature a wide tuning range of up to 4 nm for laser spectroscopy applications.

Vertilas has also achieved record laser performance results for communications applications. Both for 1550 nm metro network and 1310 nm data communications applications, we have developed directly modulated very high data rate lasers that have demonstrated up to 50 Gbps data transmission.

More recently, Vertilas was the first company to demonstrate 2D VCSEL arrays with 1.3 µm for 3D sensing applications. For example, a 1.3 µm two dimensional VCSEL array with 800 emitters has been tested with an optical power of more than 8 Watts in quasi continuous wave mode (qcw). With shorter pulsed mode operation, the optical power can achieve a multiple of this value.


What are the long-term goals of Vertilas?

For long-term goals, I believe you need to be flexible and respect the goals you’ve set in the past. Today, we can summarize our key goals in three main areas:

  • Ramp-up our production capacity to support high volume markets
  • Continue to continuously improve laser performance and expand our product portfolio into new markets and applications, e.g. portable gas sensing, data communications and 3D sensing
  • Finally, we plan to develop product solutions featuring a higher level of functional integration


Tell us about your career prior to joining Vertilas—what was it like? Are there differences you have experienced at your time in Vertilas?

The innovative semiconductor industry and international business is very fascinating. I studied electrical engineering at the Munich University of Applied Sciences with a focus on semiconductors and data technology. Already during my university studies, I started to work for a large international semiconductor company and spent 6 months at their R&D headquarters in Tokyo. After completing my studies as Dipl-Ing., I joined the European R&D group of Hitachi semiconductors, then moving into the product marketing department. Having had always both the technology as well as business side in my focus, I enrolled for an executive course at the Henley Management College and Brunel University and got my MBA degree in 1999. Further developing my know-how and experience, I assumed the role of Marketing Director for high speed semiconductor devices at Infineon. Having the dream to work in the USA, I joined a US technology start-up in New Jersey that eventually went public on the NASDAQ. During the difficult period of the technology and market meltdown in 2002, I took over the responsibility to restructure the optical communications business line of Broadcom in California.

Throughout my career, the sweet spot for me is combining the business and technology side. Working at the small high-tech company Vertilas, I have the unique opportunity to drive the development of an exciting technology with an innovative and motivated team, combine technical and business expertise and act internationally to make our products and efforts worldwide successful. As a small company, we can take decisions quickly and implement our plans very effectively. Results, both good and not so good ones, can be experienced directly and stimulate our motivation to constantly improve and innovate our technology to meet our customers’ needs.


What is some advice you would give to someone just starting in the industry?

I think one key element for me really—what I learned working with successful people—is really it's a hands-on approach. You're trying to understand what you're doing. If you think that the product has some benefits for the customer, really try and understand: What is the benefit? What is the customer or someone else looking for? What do they need?


One of the key challenges in the world is climate change. How is Vertilas taking on that challenge?

One aspect what we're working on over here is, we have a broad portfolio for the gas-sensing market. There are also many safety and environmental applications for that. Just imagine gas leaks—you know, in natural-gas pipelines or production. I see a big potential for these kinds of applications, because gas leaks are, on the one hand, very dangerous for people for safety reasons, but then also on an environmental basis. In addition, our lasers are very power efficient and our customers can develop next generation systems and solutions with significantly less power consumption, so we are producing products for those purposes. We will push more research into that to have [options] at higher wavelengths for better measurement technologies. In general, [we are] developing products for these kinds of applications.


Why did Vertilas decide to join Optica as a corporate member?

We are a relatively new member to Optica. It’s a large worldwide family and it's great to be part of it. To exchange with other members of Optica for various reasons—just to exchange ideas for what kind of technology development is necessary for the future for the challenges we're experiencing right now ... It's an ecosystem, a broad range. It's a worldwide organization. It's very active. For a small technology company, really, it's ideal to be part of that family.

Image for keeping the session alive