Turbulence ahead?

Despite softness in some photonics market segments and the economic challenges of 2007-which included record energy prices and the housing credit debacle in the U.S. - the lasers and photonics markets came through 2007 quite well.

Jan 1st, 2008

Despite softness in some photonics market segments and the economic challenges of 2007-which included record energy prices and the housing credit debacle in the U.S.-the lasers and photonics markets came through 2007 quite well. Our 2008 Annual Review and Forecast estimates global sales of lasers gained about 9% in 2007 over 2006. Performance of individual segments was less straightforward, though. Bookings for the semiconductor-processing equipment segment trended downward, for instance, while other segments showed stronger-than-anticipated gains-industrial laser revenues were boosted by the ever-growing sales of fiber lasers (see page 74). But as we move into the New Year, economic uncertainties continue and seem likely to create turbulence for the industry. The credit-market malaise is spreading to encompass business lending just as consumer confidence is being undermined: factors to keep in mind when considering our projection of 7% growth for 2008.

Among the higher-growth segments is the life sciences. Annual sales of “biomedical optics” reached more than $6 billion in 2005 according to Dr. David Benaron (of Stanford University and Spectros Corp.). What’s more, while speaking at last year’s Lasers & Photonics Marketplace Seminar, Benaron suggested this market would see a further fivefold increase over the next five years (see marketplaceseminar.com). Noting this rapid growth, Laser Focus World is starting a new publication aimed at researchers and engineers involved in biomedical optics. BioOptics World will launch Jan. 21, 2008. Please take a look at BioOpticsWorld.com and let us know what you think.

And while it has yet to take off in a commercial sense, the field of plasmonics is another exciting “growth segment.” Plasmonics promises what electronics and photonics do not: very small size with very high speed by essentially merging electronics and photonics. Integration of surface-plasmon structures with semiconductors could lead to new active surface-plasmon devices (see page 103). And plasmon-based grating-gate detectors are being explored as tunable detectors of terahertz radiation (see page 131).

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

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