Photonics components rule

In terms of global markets and impact, photonics systems represent enormous value, from optical communications networks to industrial laser processing or bioimaging equipment.

Conardmug 2011c

In terms of global markets and impact, photonics systems represent enormous value, from optical communications networks to industrial laser processing or bioimaging equipment. And these systems drive even further value in the businesses that rely on them, including the Internet economy, and the transportation and healthcare sectors.

And yet, from our perspective, so much of this value arises from active and passive photonics components developed through decades of research and then integration into systems (and in the case of some optical communications components, repurposed for other applications). The components are relatively small and inexpensive—but they are mighty.

Our cover story on a low-cost bandpass filter array, for example, explains how a simple-seeming, passive component, combined with a silicon detector, may enable the ubiquitous smartphone to act as a shortwave near-infrared spectrometer, revealing a vast world of information and enabling yet more applications ranging from food safety and security to environmental sensing (see page 21). The mid-infrared (mid-IR) is also revealing its secrets with the help of active components such as mid-IR LEDs, which can play a critical role as low-cost sensing nodes in the growing Internet of Things (see page 30).

And quantum-cascade lasers (QCLs), the high-power source in the mid-IR, has reached a stage of maturity where we can be discussing "interesting technical innovations" to an already substantial portfolio of QCL products from several companies (see page 23). Finally, performance of the workhorse photodetector can be significantly improved with the help of graphene and related materials, to the point where the photodetector can act as a hyperspectral imager from the visible to the shortwave-infrared (see page 42).

So the view from within the photonics community remains the same: components will continue to have an impact on society that far exceeds their modest size.

Conardmug 2011cConard Holton
Associate Publisher/
Editor in Chief

cholton@pennwell.com

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