I had the great pleasure of hosting Laser Focus World’s 32nd annual Lasers & Photonics Marketplace Seminar in San Francisco, CA last month. The Seminar format contained a mix of presentations, interviews, and panel discussions. To conclude the morning panel on technologies and markets, the moderator asked each panelist what new applications were most interesting to them. One panelist mentioned glass processing—that is, joining glass and metal or glass to glass with lasers. Another mentioned cybersecurity, while a third pointed to lasers for agriculture. The last mentioned mobile spectroscopy using new smartphone apps and optical sensors.
Our cover story this month discusses a new generation of mobile near-infrared spectrometers that can aid in such capabilities, allowing both consumers and producers to have real-time access to more-reliable information. Near-infrared spectroscopy can identify certain compounds like fat, sugar, water, or proteins in food, leading to information about calorie content, freshness, and quality of food that can help consumers make better choices (see article). The promise of spectroscopic sensors in smartphones and other portable devices may offer tremendous benefits to society, making it easier for farmers to improve the growing process and for consumers to better understand what they are eating.
Also in this issue, Contributing Editor Jeff Hecht lays out the progress being made overcoming the many remaining technical challenges in linking small satellites via laser (see article). Senior Editor John Wallace provides technical background on f-theta lenses and presents numerous commercial examples (see article). We also cover an eye-safe, high-pulse energy, fiber laser source for lidar and sensing (see article), examine ways to minimize the negative effects that high-power lasers can have on optical components in materials processing systems (see article), and highlight the latest imaging advances that facilitate biomedical progress to enhance research and surgical outcomes (see article). As always, I hope you enjoy this issue.