Never say never

Sept. 1, 2001
Sometimes it's fun to speculate about what the future will bring, and for many of us involved with "high technology" such speculation inevitably leans toward how our lives may be changed by the next great technological innovation.

Sometimes it's fun to speculate about what the future will bring, and for many of us involved with "high technology" such speculation inevitably leans toward how our lives may be changed by the next great technological innovation. The conjecture can range from what may seem almost mundane predictions based on a fairly logical extension of current technology, to ideas appearing almost bizarre in their scope or impact. Although given the pervasiveness of technology in our everyday lives and the increasing rate of development, it's becoming increasingly difficult to discount any predictions as being "impossible" over the long run. So it is that the premise of one of this month's feature articles may seem rather far-fetched (see p. 113). The idea of creating an electrical power infrastructure in space based on lasers is (to put it mildly) a very long way from feasibility for many reasons, some of which are outlined in the article—but who knows what the future may bring?

Much nearer to reality, but still with a way to go, is the possibility of replacing current incandescent and fluorescent lighting with an aesthetically and economically acceptable solid-state alternative. In fact, there has been a lot of interest in the subject recentlyit was the topic of a two-day technical session at last month's SPIE Annual Meeting in San Diego, CA , and is also the subject of a research initiative currently before both houses of the US Congress. Recent advances in this field involving LEDs are discussed in an article on page 81.

Elsewhere in this issue, we highlight many other technologies in various stages of development. Semiconductor optical amplifiers have been around for some time but are now gaining ground as a potential lower-cost alternative to erbium-doped fiber amplifiers in optical communications systems (see p. 73). Invented only seven years ago, quantum cascade lasers are still a relatively new type of laser and have recently moved into the far-infrared part of the spectrum opening up new possibilities for applications in trace-gas sensing (see p. 65 ). And once thought to be not user-friendly enough to be commercially viable, excimer lasers are benefiting from years of patient development and are now well-established as the laser of choice for semiconductor lithography, with new markets still evolving (see p. 103). Never say never!

About the Author

Stephen G. Anderson | Director, Industry Development - SPIE

 Stephen Anderson is a photonics industry expert with an international background and has been actively involved with lasers and photonics for more than 30 years. As Director, Industry Development at SPIE – The international society for optics and photonics – he is responsible for tracking the photonics industry markets and technology to help define long-term strategy, while also facilitating development of SPIE’s industry activities. Before joining SPIE, Anderson was Associate Publisher and Editor in Chief of Laser Focus World and chaired the Lasers & Photonics Marketplace Seminar. Anderson also co-founded the BioOptics World brand. Anderson holds a chemistry degree from the University of York and an Executive MBA from Golden Gate University.    

Sponsored Recommendations

Request a free Micro 3D Printed sample part

April 11, 2024
The best way to understand the part quality we can achieve is by seeing it first-hand. Request a free 3D printed high-precision sample part.

How to Tune Servo Systems: The Basics

April 10, 2024
Learn how to tune a servo system using frequency-based tools to meet system specifications by watching our webinar!

Motion Scan and Data Collection Methods for Electro-Optic System Testing

April 10, 2024
Learn how different scanning patterns and approaches can be used in measuring an electro-optic sensor performance, by reading our whitepaper here!

How Precision Motion Systems are Shaping the Future of Semiconductor Manufacturing

March 28, 2024
This article highlights the pivotal role precision motion systems play in supporting the latest semiconductor manufacturing trends.

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Laser Focus World, create an account today!