Photonics engineers are concerned with understanding how light can be emitted, transmitted, amplified, detected, modulated and switched for a variety of purposes. Lasers are a key component of photonics.
Just as applications of electronics have expanded dramatically since the first transistor was invented in 1948, the unique applications of photonics continue to emerge. Since the development of the laser in the 1960s, the potential applications of photonics are virtually unlimited and include chemical synthesis, medical diagnostics, on-chip data communication, laser defense, and fusion energy.
The concept of using laser light to carry communications information has been a focal point for the semiconductor industry. Important applications for semiconductor photonic devices include optical data recording, fiber optic telecommunications, laser printing (based on xerography), displays, and optical pumping of high-power lasers.
Other current applications of photonics include light detection, telecommunications, information processing, illumination, medicine (surgery, vision correction, health monitoring), military technology, laser material processing, visual art, agriculture and robotics.
Applications with which you’re probably very familiar:
- Consumer Equipment: Barcode scanner, printer, CD/DVD/Blu-ray devices, remote control devices
- Telecommunications: Optical fiber communications
- Medicine: Correction of poor eyesight, laser surgery, tattoo removal
- Industrial manufacturing: The use of lasers for welding, drilling, cutting and various kinds of surface modification
- Construction: Laser leveling and range-finding
- Military: Guidance systems, navigation, search and rescue, mine laying and detection, secure communications and communications jamming
- Entertainment: Laser shows, beam effects, holographic art