A world of possibilities

Last year's collapse of the optical communications marketplace has left most photonics firms wondering what this year will bring. One consequence of the dramatically different business environment has been a change in management priorities...

Mar 1st, 2002
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Last year's collapse of the optical communications marketplace has left most photonics firms wondering what this year will bring. One consequence of the dramatically different business environment has been a change in management priorities: seeking strategies for survival has taken a "front seat" as these firms look for new growth opportunities. But despite the troubled telecommunications market, there are markets that remain stable, as readers of the Laser Focus World Annual Review and Forecast of the Laser Marketplace (see January, p. 81, and February, p. 61) will already have noted. So this month we are extending our annual market coverage. In a special report, Optoelectronics Outlook 2002, which begins after p. 66, industry veterans and entrepreneurs Milton Chang and Bill Nighan provide an investor's perspective on the optoelectronics markets and discuss the prospects for 2002. And in another article the chief technology officers of leading photonics companies offer insight into recent technology trends and new opportunities.

Among these trends is the emergence of new components and technologies that enhance existing applications. A novel photomultiplier tube, for example, allows sizing of submicron particles using noninvasive back scattering (see p. 99), while interference filters with carefully designed spectral properties seem to promise a low-cost and rugged approach to multiwavelength spectroscopy (see p. 91). In the field of vibration control, dynamic interferometry works with the vibration instead of requiring its elimination (see p. 109).

Even given the "burst bubble" of the telecommunications marketplace much development work continues to consolidate and advance the underlying optoelectronic technologies that make optical networks possible. Smart components that can adapt to changing conditions, for instance, are at the forefront of efforts to create dynamic networks—despite significant hurdles, progress is being made in the development of smart amplifiers (see p. 59). And development of new materials for the tiny mechanical devices known as MEMS holds much promise. Traditionally based on silicon, these devices are key elements of several networking components, but silicon is rigid and noncompliant. A new class of MEMS is emerging based on highly complaint polymeric materials and opening up new applications possibilities (see p. 117).

Stephen G. Anderson
Associate Publisher/Editor in Chief
stevega@pennwell.com

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