This year's Photonics West meeting in San Jose, CA, was in stark contrast to a couple of years back when the majority of attendees and exhibitors were focused almost exclusively (or so it seemed) on the telecom marketplace. To the surprise of many and despite the generally soft economic conditions, attendance at this year's conference was a healthy 12,000 with the number of exhibiting companies up 11% from last year to 770 firms. Few exhibitors or attendees on the crowded floor had anything to say about telecom. Instead, most people seemed to be looking forward with guarded optimism to a gradually improving market in 2003 driven by traditional optoelectronic applications and by emerging opportunities like the defense and security markets.
In the crowded technical sessions hot topics included short-wavelength light-emitting diodes (LEDs) for lighting, as well as high-power gas and chemical lasers. High-energy lasers are back in the news because of their potential in defense applications (see p. 27). Of other budding opportunities, many mentioned the life sciences: proteomics tools can be laser-based (see p. 11), while optical diagnostic procedures apparently promise noninvasive assessment of blood components such as glucose and urea (see p. 30). And the combination of a life-science application with security needs has led to a fiberoptic system for detection of bio threats (see p. S3). Also in evidence at the show was a trend toward taking a product originally developed for telecom and applying it elsewhere. Tunable lasers, for example, are well suited for use with fiber sensors and can also benefit from the manufacturing technology developed for high-volume telecom applications (see p. 89).
Notwithstanding the resurgence of interest in photonic applications for nontelecom markets, optical communications still represents one of the largest optoelectronics applications. Hence this issue of Laser Focus World will be at the Optical Fiber Communications conference (OFC; Atlanta, GA) in March. Coarse wavelength-division multiplexing for the metro space is the subject of our optoelectronics applications feature on p. 97. Other related articles include a discussion of indium phosphide-based Mach Zender modulators for long-reach metro (see p. 101), and a look at how fiberoptics are playing an increasing role in cable television (see p. 65). It will be interesting to see how OFC fares relative to last year—we'll be sure to let you know.