Handcrafted photonics

Sept. 13, 2017
It may be a stretch to compare an engineer or researcher working in photonics to the owner of your local brewpub -- or maybe not.
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In an age of mass production and consumption, many of us still value handmade, locally produced products and services, whether it's beer, food, clothing, furniture, or homes. It may be a stretch to compare an engineer or researcher working in photonics to the owner of your local brewpub—or maybe not.

Our features in this issue show clearly how photonics products and applications rely on individual engineers and researchers to personally design, build, and use them. We start with articles describing advances in complex yet core photonics products like optical tables (see article), polygon beam scanners (see article), UV laser sources (see article), and diffractive optical elements (see article). Components such as these are then crafted into unique systems that can perform truly marvelous applications such as spectroscopy for detecting brain cancer in situ during surgery (see article), or terahertz imaging to determine the quality of agricultural and industrial products (see article).

And you certainly do not think that the dragonfly with a photonics-laden backpack on the cover of this issue is somehow mass-produced. It was handcrafted by nature, as well as photonics engineers and scientists at the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory and Howard Hughes Medical Institute (see article).

I sometimes wonder if the lifelong attraction that photonics holds for many of us relates not just to fascination with the science and technology, but fundamentally to the very personal and satisfying nature of working with the very carefully thought-out and precise systems that we create.

About the Author

Conard Holton | Editor at Large

Conard Holton has 25 years of science and technology editing and writing experience. He was formerly a staff member and consultant for government agencies such as the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and the International Atomic Energy Agency, and engineering companies such as Bechtel. He joined Laser Focus World in 1997 as senior editor, becoming editor in chief of WDM Solutions, which he founded in 1999. In 2003 he joined Vision Systems Design as editor in chief, while continuing as contributing editor at Laser Focus World. Conard became editor in chief of Laser Focus World in August 2011, a role in which he served through August 2018. He then served as Editor at Large for Laser Focus World and Co-Chair of the Lasers & Photonics Marketplace Seminar from August 2018 through January 2022. He received his B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania, with additional studies at the Colorado School of Mines and Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

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