We believe in making photonics and science accessible to all, and thus, we’re building this glossary to assist in better understanding the technical and scientific terminology we use. Please reach out if there’s something we can add! 


The scientific testing and recording of properties of materials. 

Complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor (CMOS), silicon semiconductors, traditional semiconductors, or chip

Semiconductors are materials that have a conductivity between conductors (generally metals) and nonconductors or insulators (such as most ceramics). They are used to power computing.  

Computational chemistry

A branch of chemistry that uses computer simulation to assist in solving chemical problems. 

Conducting polymers

Organic polymers (a substance or material consisting of very large molecules, or macromolecules, composed of many repeating subunits) that conduct electricity. 

Data processing

The manipulation of data by a computer. 

Electro-optic activity

A change in the optical properties of a material in response to an electric field that varies slowly compared to light frequency, such as a radio-frequency field. 


The branch of physics which deals with rapidly changing electric and magnetic fields. 

Facile processing

Of a reaction or other process, taking place readily. 

Instrumentation design

The process of developing various kinds of instruments for measuring, monitoring, and collecting data for research or use in a variety of fields. 

Lidar (sensing)

(Light Detection and Ranging) is a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure ranges (variable distances) to the Earth. These light pulses—combined with other data recorded by the airborne system — generate precise, three-dimensional information about the shape of the Earth and its surface characteristics. 

Light-matter interactions

Quantum transitions by electrons, accompanied by the emission, absorption, or scattering of quanta of the electromagnetic field in vacuum (photons). 

Lithium niobate (LiNbO3)

A non-naturally-occurring salt consisting of niobium, lithium, and oxygen. Its single crystals are an important material for optical waveguides, mobile phones, piezoelectric sensors, optical modulators, and various other linear and nonlinear optical applications. 

Machine learning

A method of data analysis that automates analytical model building. It is a branch of artificial intelligence based on the idea that systems can learn from data, identify patterns, and make decisions with minimal human intervention. 


Chromophore-polymer composites. 

Magnetic resonance

A process by which a physical excitation (resonance) is set up via magnetism. 


The use of the microscope. 

Moore’s Law

A prediction made by American engineer Gordon Moore in 1965 that the number of transistors per silicon chip doubles every year. Rather than a law of physics, it is an empirical relationship linked to gains from experience in production. 


The study of the behavior of light on the nanometer scale and the interaction of nanometer-scale objects with light. It is a branch of optics, optical engineering, electrical engineering, and nanotechnology. 


In mathematics and science, a nonlinear system is a system in which the change of the output is not linearly proportional to the input change. 


Original or new. 

Optical backplanes

Connector and adapter system that provides a transition from card-level onboard optics to backplane connectivity. 

Optical computing or photonic computing

Photonics shrinks the technology behind fiber optics down to the chip-scale, rapidly moving data with little effort and solving complex compute tasks with light instead of electrons. 

Optical interconnects

Any system of transmitting signals from one part of an integrated circuit to another using light. 

Optical processing

The ability to analyze an image and synthesize the image with various modifications by optical means. 

Optical transceivers

Wavelength-specific lasers that convert electrical data signals from data switches into optical signals. 

Organic electro-optic (OEO) materials

Materials for conducting photonic activity. They are currently NLM’s specialty in what brings the magic to our components and chips. 

Phase-change materials

A substance that releases or absorbs sufficient energy at phase transition useful in heat and cooling. 

Phased array 5g and satellite antennas

Antenna array designed specifically for 5G mm-wave applications. 


The field of systems that control or utilize light, just as electronics is the field of systems that control or utilize electric currents. 


Relating to the production of electric current at the junction of two substances exposed to light. 

Plasmonic nanostructures

Particles whose electron density can couple with electromagnetic radiation of wavelengths that are far larger than the particle due to the nature of the dielectric-metal interface between the medium and the particles. 

Platform company

A business model that creates value by facilitating exchanges between two or more interdependent groups, usually consumers and producers. 

Quantum computing

The exploitation of collective properties of quantum states, such as superposition and entanglement, to perform computation. 

Rare earth materials

Minerals, ore, and other precious metals or stones extracted through mining that is precious, few in quantity, and nonrenewable resources. 

Signal-processing imagers

Encompassing the theory and practice of algorithms and hardware that convert signals produced by artificial or natural means into a form useful for a specific purpose. 

Soft materials

Materials that can be easily deformed by thermal stresses or thermal fluctuations at about room temperature. Soft materials include liquids, polymers, foams, gels, colloids, granular materials, and most soft biological materials. 

Solid-state physics

The study of rigid matter, or solids, through quantum mechanics, crystallography, electromagnetism, and metallurgy. It is the largest branch of condensed matter physics. 


The ability of a solid, liquid, or gaseous chemical substance (referred to as the solute) to dissolve in solvent (usually a liquid) and form a solution. The solubility of a substance fundamentally depends on the solvent used, as well as temperature and pressure. 

Statistical mechanics

A mathematical framework that applies statistical methods and probability theory to large assemblies of microscopic entities. It does not assume or postulate any natural laws but explains the macroscopic behavior of nature from the behavior of such ensembles. 

Submicron diffractive optics

An optical process generating output patterns employing interfering light waves, providing precise, customized patterns for a broad spectrum of laser-based applications. 


A substance that tends to reduce the surface tension of a liquid in which it is dissolved. 

Theoretical modeling methods

Methods focusing on the underlying mechanisms of surface formation, while the empirical parametric modeling method emphasizes the process of data mining. 

Thin-film device fabrication

The process of creating and depositing thin film coatings onto a substrate material. These coatings can be made of many different materials, from metals to oxides to compounds. 

Tunable metamaterial technology

A metamaterial with a variable response to an incident electromagnetic wave to determine whether the EM wave is transmitted, reflected, or absorbed. 


The property of materials that exhibit both viscous and elastic characteristics when undergoing deformation.