Wired In: Peter Abbamonte

Wired In: Peter Abbamonte

On Sundays, staff writer Paul Wood spotlights a high-tech difference maker. This week: University of Illinois physics professor Peter Abbamonte, who founded Inprentus Precision Optics in 2012 in the UI Research Park. It's the only company in the world making nanotech optics that work with X-ray and extreme ultraviolet light.

The team

Chief Executive Officer Ron van Os, who is experienced in creating several start-up companies as well as a former semi-pro soccer player, and Vice President for Engineering Jonathan Manton, whom Abbamonte credits with a lot of the innovative ideas.

What does your product offer right now that no other company can offer?

Abbamonte was working on a research grant on the Advanced Photon Source at Argonne National Laboratory in the Chicago suburbs. But the precision optic parts were hard to get. "They were only made in Europe; Zeiss in Germany and Hitachi in Japan. Both got out of the business because they were losing money." Their equipment was ancient, and the Hitachi plant was damaged in a massive 2011 earthquake. Abbamonte decided to make an American advantage by starting from scratch.

How did Inprentus improve the process?

The optics, diffraction gratings, are very difficult to make, Abbamonte says. "They were using gears and carriage returns," he says of Zeiss and Hitachi. Inprentus uses "atomic force microscope-based mechanical lithography" at the nanometer level, enabling 192,000 lines on one grating. "We knew there was a market," he says.

How's that working out?

"We're in the black," Abbamonte says, with customers from major laboratories all over the world, as the only source of these nanotech optics.

What's next for Inprentus?

The company will move into technology that will enable manufacturers to shrink microchips using extreme ultra-violet lithography.

Tech tidbits ...

from Peter Abbamonte

Twitter handle: "As a professor, I've learned not to get caught up in social media."

Favorite app: Evernote, a way of integrating notes from many sources.

On Facebook I follow ... "I'm on Google Plus."

Book or Kindle? Kindle.

Wearable electronics? Likes Moto 360 smart watch.

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