Monitoring gas concentrations in the atmosphere, development of the quantum computer, manufacturing of mobile phone chips, non-invasive glucose measurement for diabetics: in all these applications and in many more you can find optical research of TNO. The optics department provides world class technical solutions for customer needs in the field of high performance compact optical systems in demanding environments.


The optical experts within TNO are divided in three disciplines:

  • Optical designers design optical instruments, e.g. telescopes, spectrometers and sensors, largely applied in the space and semicon industry. By accurately adjusting mirrors, lenses, gratings and other optical components, optical designers make sure that the incoming light correctly falls on a detector.
  • Optical engineers perform the integration, alignment and testing of optical sensors and optical instruments. They realise the optical performance of hardware by working in a team of specialists with various expertises. This involves trouble shooting, working in cleanrooms and working on site with TNO customers.
  • Systems engineers guide the process of translating customer needs into optical solutions. They are responsible for the quality of an instrument and bind together the disciplines (involving other departments) throughout its development, while keeping an overview on the system and focus on the end result.

Five technology lines

The Optics department develops knowledge within five technology lines.

  • Spectroscopy identifies samples and characterizes matter using the wavelength of light.
  • Fiber Optic Sensing measure and monitor chemical, biological and industrial processes in demanding environments, allowing process control and optimization.
  • Nano photonics develops integrated sensor systems for (bio)chemical and physical parameters sensing. Also, TNO explores the potential of promising meta materials for optical applications.
  • Both high end industrial manufacturing (e.g. lithography) and advanced scientific experiments (e.g. astronomy) rely heavily on the availability of accurate and robust measurement equipment. Using our metrology expertise we invent, design and develop such systems and the technology needed to produce them.
  • TNO offers complete calibration concepts for (one of a kind) optical instruments.

Seven markets

Rapid nano allows quick detection of particles, aiming at particles below 20 nm

TNO's optical expertise is applied in seven markets:

  • TNO has an excellent track record in space-based imaging absorption spectroscopy with three instruments successfully launched as satellites and still in orbit and operation today.
  • TNO develops modules and equipment for the semicon industry, focusing on sensors, metrology and lithography concepts. TNO is also the expert in contamination control.
  • TNO develops sensors for the oil and gas industry that monitor a wide variety of parameters, from acceleration to viscosity.
  • TNO develops devices based on optical techniques for non-invasive medical diagnostics and disease monitoring.
  • Spectroscopy can be applied for defense purposes to localize improvised explosive devices (IED).
  • TNO is working on optical simulations to enhance solar cell performance.
  • TNO develops a wide range of optical sensors and diagnostic systems for the European big science facilities, such as ITER, CERN and KM3NeT.

TNO is partner of ACTPHAST

ACTPHAST is a EU project, providing a unique one-stop-shop solution for supporting photonics innovation in European companies. Read more

Expertise groups