Happy New Year

This year brings a “photonics anniversary” of sorts. Ten years ago the emergence of semiconductor lasers initiated an extended period of growth for the laser industry.

This year brings a “photonics anniversary” of sorts. Ten years ago the emergence of semiconductor lasers initiated an extended period of growth for the laser industry. Worldwide sales of all types of lasers in 1995 were about $1.25 billion, with dollar sales of nondiode lasers more than double those of diode lasers, according to Laser Focus World. That changed forever in 1996 when sales of semiconductor devices shot up and exceeded nondiode-laser sales for the first time. Since then, driven by markets like data storage and communications, diode-laser sales have grown in leaps and bounds. Even with the negative effects of a recession and the telecom bubble along the way, the market for all lasers reached $5.4 billion in 2004-a ten-year compound annual growth rate of roughly 17%-and sales of diode devices were almost 1.5 times those of nondiode lasers. But the laser market apparently stalled in 2005. Despite some strong individual sectors, global sales revenues were essentially flat for both types of lasers compared to 2004 with the outlook for 2006 still in single digits (see p. 78).

One sector that definitely didn’t stall last year was fiber lasers-sales of fiber lasers increased astronomically in 2005 with similar growth expected for 2006. As those lasers evolve, so too will the underlying specialty-fiber technology . . . nanoparticles, for instance, can be used to make doped active fibers (see p. 101). And while we’re in the “nano” realm, it’s worth noting that quantum dots are finding novel applications as optical sources (see p. 123). Aside from sources, other elements in the “photonics toolbox” have also seen significant development during the past decade. Image sensors and optical detectors are smaller and more accessible and now are widely used in all aspects of our daily lives (see p. 129). And optics are smaller and more complex, requiring novel fabrication and testing techniques (see pps. 95 and 117). So here’s to the next ten-year “photonics anniversary.” Meanwhile, we at Laser Focus World wish you a happy and prosperous 2006.

Stephen G. Anderson
Associate Publisher/Editor in Chief
[email protected]

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