Ubiquitous optics

Photonics applications have become so commonplace and far reaching that even those of us who work in the field tend to forget how pervasive optics technology has become in our everyday life.

Mar 1st, 2007

Photonics applications have become so commonplace and far reaching that even those of us who work in the field tend to forget how pervasive optics technology has become in our everyday life. From the seemingly mundane-such as car headlight design-to emerging applications with much more pizzazz-like laser-based television-we are increasingly reliant on photonics to help us navigate our daily activities. Nowhere is this trend more evident than in the defense and security space, where cutting-edge technologies typically gain acceptance much earlier than in the commercial space. In the defense arena, for instance, many countries are working with photonics (and other) technology to give their soldiers in the field every advantage possible. Among the photonics projects are so-called “smart fabrics” that integrate optical fiber or other optical components into the weave of military uniforms with the long-term goal of improving communications (and hence situational awareness) for the soldier (see page 77). And in the law-enforcement arena, the need to detect concealed weapons has turned up the heat on research into novel forms of imaging-one example being image fusion in which visual and radiometric images are combined for more efficient image analysis (see page 83).

Much cutting-edge photonics research involves working with thin films. They hold promise for many advanced applications including flexile displays such as those based on thin-film hybrid organic/inorganic quantum-dot LEDs (see page 65), and thin-film solar cells-whose flexibility seems likely to offer some unique advantages over the more traditional (and rigid) crystalline silicon devices (see page 71). Recent advances in optical fabrication also include the use of thin films for sophisticated control of the polarization state of light in complex optical systems (see page 59); and in another fabrication advance, fluid polishing of lenses offers lower-cost lens polishing (see page 15 and this month’s cover).

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

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