Digital photonics - changemaker

April 10, 2017
Digital electronics technologies and products continue to disrupt and transform the world - but there is a broader context.  
Conard Holton2 5f3bf14d63606

Digital electronics technologies and products continue to disrupt and transform the world—but there is a broader context. In fact, the electronics technologies that surround us are inextricably bound to photonics, enabled by and enabling new advances. Digital photonics, which is all photonics that deals with digital data, is everywhere, from semiconductor lithography, mobile communications, digital imaging, the Internet, and GPS satellites, to precision manufacturing, genetic sequencing, and neuroscience. And consider just a few of the companies that could not succeed without digital photonics: Amazon, Baidu, BMW, British Airways, ExxonMobil, Facebook, Ford, GE, IBM, Intel, John Deere, Microsoft, Siemens, Toyota, and Uber.

The message that digital photonics is fundamentally changing the world comes in this issue from Peter Leibinger, vice chairman of the TRUMPF Group (see page 21). It's a similar message to one he delivered last year at the fast-growing CODE_n new.New Festival in Karlsruhe, Germany (see https://youtu.be/b7u3iI_o7Jw). The Festival describes itself as, "The perfect place for digital pioneers, startups, lateral thinkers, experienced innovators, established companies, investors, the media, politicians, research bodies—in short, anyone who's passionate about digital innovation."

It's perhaps a bit ironic that the leader of a mainstream industrial toolmaker should be pitching his vision of digital photonics to the "digital avant-garde." But he feels that both survival and advancement depend on understanding and embracing the implications of digital photonics. The message resonated with the Festival audience, just as the realization is dawning on many others that digital photonics has a tremendous impact on all of society.

Continual innovations in digital photonics are essential to meet societal needs, from advances in applications like standoff explosives detection (see page 24) and new neuroscience techniques (see page 31), to developing better component technologies like freeform optics (see page 35) and new mid-IR sources (see page 29). Electrons and photons, it seems, make good partners.

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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