To simply put it photonics is the science of harnessing light. Now for many of you this is a subject that you may be completely clueless about it however you do not to fully understand it in order to know that this branch of science has a far reaching applications or practical uses in our everyday lives such as in information technology, telecommunications, health care, lighting, energy, national defense, education, and research.
Advancement and technological development in the field of laser and low-loss optical fibers paved the way for photonics to be central in many innovations in technology that human use. Such is likened to the invention of the transistor and integrated circuits in electronics, which brought us to the age of computer and many more electronic devices we are using these days. The science of photonics includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, electronics, and other sophisticated systems.
What makes photonics significant to the 21st century?
It was in the 1960’s that the term photonics was first used in describing an area or field of study that focuses on the use of light in performing traditionally electronic functions in telecommunications, information procession, remote sensing, and control just to name some. The term came from the word photon which basic particle of light. It should be pointed out however that despite its use in performing functions which are usually associated with electronics, photonics was not developed in order to replace the other but are complimentary fields of technology which enhance each other. In fact, in areas where both of their functions overlap, such field is called opto-electronics and their combination brought about sophisticated technologies in each of the field.
Actually photonics is considered as an interdisciplinary field because it can cover different areas of study like optics, physics, electrical engineering, chemistry, and materials science among others. Many science fields come together in conceiving, designing, developing and bringing into being the materials, devices and systems able to perform the many functions of photonics and that is primarily the reason why it has an extensive practical usage in every aspect of human life and right now many more possibilities of developing useful applications are still out there to be discovered. It is no wonder why, photonics is labeled as the technology of the 21st century.
Photonics has the potential to affect various economic conditionsthat is why countries, universities and schools, and start-up companies among others are trying to grab forefront roles andposition in the development and implementation of this science. This is evident in the fact that both the United States and the European Union have commissioned their own separate expert groups to conduct thorough assessments of the broad field of Optics and Photonics Science and Engineering. The primary goals for these groups to give recommendations on how to lead in this field as well as make full use of its many benefits. In fact the studies revealed that Photonics is vital to a country’s national interest.
Practical Applications Of Photonics
As pointed out earlier, photonics is a revolutionary technology that has extensive practical uses in human activities and these applications are continuing to grow and expand today. Among its uses considered vital to economic conditions include optical data recording, fiber optic telecommunications, laser printing, displays, and optical pumping of high-power lasers. It likewise have practical uses in chemical synthesis, medical diagnostics, on-chip data communication, laser defense, fusion energy, light detection, telecommunications, information processing, lighting, metrology, spectroscopy, holography, medicine in areas such as surgery, vision correction, endoscopy, health monitoring, military technology, laser material processing, visual art, agriculture, and robotics.
You may already have seen these practical uses in the various equipment and products you are using such as for instance printer, CD/DVD/Blu-ray devices, remote control devices,and barcode scanner. If you have undergone medical procedure like correction of poor eyesight, laser surgery, surgical endoscopy, and tattoo removal, these are also made possible by photonics technology.The use of these technologies has enabled physicians and other medical personnel to deliver better health care services to patients thus improving their well-being and quality of life.
Several aspects that come under the field of information technology and processing are also areas where this science has useful applications. The field of metrology is another in equipment use for time and frequency measurements and range finding among others.
Meanwhile in industrial manufacturing, this science has practical application in the use of lasers for welding, drilling, cutting, and different surface modification processes. In the field of construction, photonics made possible laser leveling, laser rangefinding, and smart structures. If you enjoy laser shows, beam effects, and holographic arts, these are just some of the application of photonics in the field of entertainment. Vital equipment for effective military defense have used photonics technology in important tools like IR sensors, navigation, search and rescue, mine laying and detection, and command and control. Another is the field of aviation where instruments like photonic gyroscopes and lacking mobile parts are being used.
For computers photonics enabled clock distribution and communication between computers and printed circuit boards among others. Light sources is another application for photonics examples of which are light-emitting diodes (LEDs), super luminescent diodes, lasers, fluorescent lamps, cathode ray tubes (CRTs), and plasma screens. This science is also used in the research of transmission media where light are transmitted through any transparent medium such as glass fiber or plastic optical fiber, which can be used to guide the light along a desired path.Photodetectors is another field where this science is use for communications applications over medium speed charge coupled devices (CCDs), in digital cameras and solar cells used for harvesting energy from the sun. Research on such fields as amplification and modulation are also part of the photonic far reaching fields.
Indeed the practical applications of the science of photonics is very far reaching and cover a vast aspect of human living and activities. As not all of its potentials are discovered yet, expect the science to expand more and the development of new products and technologies which we hope could improve the overall quality of human lives will continue to come.