Digital imaging has become a major market driver, affecting almost everything from storage to communications according to Fred Welsh, recently retired from the Optoelectronics Industry Development Association (OIDA; Washington, D.C.). Speaking last month at the annual Boston University Photonics Center Executive Symposium, Welsh painted a relatively upbeat picture of the photonics business, which he said is now increasingly driven by consumer applications. Welsh estimates that the total worldwide optoelectronics components market grew 30% in 2003 to $63 billion and is dominated by flat-panel displays, which accounted for about 68% (approximately $43 billion) of that total.
The significance of consumer-based digital imaging is obvious, given the global abundance of digital cameras and camera phones, but other more specialized arenas are also benefiting from novel imaging modalities. Hyperspectral imagers promise improved quality control of pharmaceutical tablets, for example (see page 95). In the field of biomedical optics, a novel microscope objective offers both broadband deep UV imaging and high-resolution immersion imaging (see page 75). And in an intriguing “role reversal,” a technology originally developed to display images has been adapted to the role of capturing them as well (see page 71).
During his talk, Welsh also highlighted three areas of emerging opportunities for optoelectronics technology: photovoltaics, optical sensors, and biophotonics. In one example of the latter, monolithic integration of sources, detectors, and chemistry may open up a new realm of biophotonics as optical biochips embrace semiconductor integration techniques to create lab-on-a-chip devices that could take medical diagnostics to the point-of-care (see page 67).
Other examples of emerging opportunities for optoelectronics technologies can be found in the technical program for next month’s Photonics West conference in San Jose, CA, a preview of which starts on page 121. Meanwhile, Senior Editor John Wallace offers his annual look at the many technological achievements we’ve covered this year-including the high-energy system featured on this month’s cover and digital imaging at levels beyond the “pixel count” of the human eye (see page 111).