Alferov Strikes Gold

Nobel Prize winner Zhores I. Alferov is the 2002 SPIE Gold Medal Recipient Recipient of the highest honor that SPIE bestows, the 2002 Gold Medal of the Society, SPIE Member Zhores I. Alferov has made an enormous impact on the field of semiconductor heterostructures. His contributions to physics and III-V semiconductor heterostructures led directly to […]

Photonic crystal fibers

Photonic crystal fibers offer extraordinary performance, including tailorable dispersion, single-mode behavior over many wavelengths, and useful nonlinear properties. Over the past few years, photonic crystal fiber (PCF) technology has evolved from a strong research-oriented field to a commercial technology providing characteristics such as single-mode operation from the UV to IR spectral regions, large mode areas […]

Packaging the Goods

Packaging design for photonic components requires careful attention to the optical and electrical connections while maintaining performance in the face of thermal, mechanical, and vibrational stresses. Every day, more and more applications use photonics components to enhance performance, reduce size, or reduce cost. The demand for volume deployment of photonics components has soared, and with […]

Sealing the Gap

Mending tissue with laser welding or soldering provides stronger, cleaner healing than sutures. Bonding the edges of human tissue is a vital step in most surgical procedures. In medicine today, surgeons suture or staple incisions, and the tissue bonding process occurs naturally. Laser-assisted bonding, which is in the developmental stages, may help improve post-operative bonding, […]

Semiconductor Optical Amplifiers

SOAs offer a key technology for amplification, switching, wavelength conversion, and regeneration in optical networks. As bandwidth demand rises, the construction of optical packet-switching nodes targeting optical routers would benefit from fast optical switches. Semiconductor-optical-amplifier (SOA) technology provides this high-speed switching capability as well as gain, high extinction ratio, and high integration potential. Moreover, it […]

Powering Brightness

Innovative stacking techniques increase the output power and brightness of diode laser bars for materials-processing applications. Semiconductor lasers are being used in a growing number of materials-processing tasks, including plastic and metal welding, marking, hole drilling, soldering, heat treating, and adhesive curing. Whether for direct use or pumping applications, ongoing research is focused on delivering […]

Smart Media Management

A system is called ‘smart’ if a user perceives the actions and reactions of the system as being smart. Media is therefore managed smartly if a computer system helps a user to perform an extensive set of operations on a large media database quickly, efficiently, and conveniently. Such operations include searching, browsing, manipulating, sharing, and […]

Automated Inspection

Manufacturers who depend on automated inspection systems for process monitoring and quality control generate large databases of product and defect imagery. As these image repositories grow in size, the manufacturer’s ability to reuse this data is limited by the large volumes, and the difficulties and intricacies of automating the description of imagery for cataloging, searching, […]

Photodiodes See the Light

The purpose of any photodetector is to convert electromagnetic radiation into an electronic signal—ideally one that is proportional to incident light intensity. Because they are compact, versatile, and can be produced economically in high volume, p-i-n photodiodes have become the detector of choice in applications from biomedical instrumentation to telecommunications.

Diffracting Light

Diffractive optics can simulate the effects of many conventional optics while offering powerful optical performance in a lightweight, compact component. When optical engineers talk about controlling light through diffraction, a number of terms get bandied about: binary optics, kinoforms, computer-generated holographic optical elements, and plain old diffraction gratings. The overall term that encompasses all of […]

Little Machines Make it Big

Micromachines make their way into optical switches, multiplexers, and crossconnects to enhance data flow over optical networks. Tiny machines, so small that they’re invisible to the human eye, are tackling a wide array of challenges in the manufacturing of automobiles and airplanes, in chemistry and biology, and in medicine and sensing. In optical communications, these […]

Playing it Safe

Following standards and using appropriate safety equipment can help eliminate the risk of eye injuries during laser use. The high radiance or brightness of a laser provides the laser’s great value in material processing and laser surgery, but it also accounts for its significant hazard to the eye. Even a small helium-neon (HeNe) alignment laser […]

Seeing the Light

Biopsies may become rare as photon migration imaging develops into a powerful non-invasive diagnostic tool. Technology and medicine have always been close partners. Diagnostic methods such as x-ray radiography, magnetic resonance imaging, ultrasound, and computed tomographies provide incredibly detailed anatomic information in demanding clinical settings. As these technologies progress and become standard-of-care, requirements for new […]

Keeping Cool

Thermoelectric coolers offer efficient solid-state heat-management options. Thermal management is a key factor in optimizing optoelectronic device performance. Excessive heat compromises the wavelength stability of laser output and increases noise levels in detectors. Thermoelectric (TE) coolers, also known as Peltier coolers, offer effective, practical options for heat management in compact optoelectronic devices such as dense-wavelength-division-multiplexing […]

View Finder

Advances in sensors, imaging techniques, and software propel remote sensing to the top of its class for environmental monitoring. The world is in constant flux: Everyday there are changes in land use, deforestation, erosion, and the earth’s natural resources. Monitoring such alterations throughout the world would be nearly impossible without remote-sensing technology. In the 1990s, […]

Hitting the Spot

Successful positioning requires an understanding of geometry and positioner constraints. As optical components find their way into increasingly complex setups, designers and researchers are faced not only with the need to know more about optical theory, but also with the need to know more about the practice of optical positioning. Because optical positioners are used […]

Integration in 3-D

Wafer-bonding techniques yield vertically integrated optoelectronic devices. Photonic integrated circuits (ICs) have held the promise that the success of electronic ICs could be transferred to the realm of optics. Unfortunately, this promise has fallen short of expectations thus far. Compared with today’s electronic ICs, which contain millions of transistors on a single silicon chip, the […]

Tiny but Mighty

By altering the size and thickness of metallic nanoshells, engineers can manipulate their interaction with light. Joining nanotechnology with optics, a new class of materials called metal nanoshells can absorb selected colors of visible or infrared (IR) light, offering the potential for new applications in thin films and coatings, chemical and biological sensors, and optical […]

High-Tech Learning

The EuroLaser Academy’s educational program replaces lectures and laboratory training courses with electronic delivery. The Internet is changing our world, including the way we deliver education. A multitude of conventional manufacturing processes worldwide, such as high-speed, quality cutting and welding, would benefit from the application of high-power lasers. In order to apply the technology to […]

Cycling Though

Photonics companies must follow a plan of preparation, reorganization, and automation in order to thrive in the next economic phase. Technical optics as an old-economy field has turned out to become a new-economy field called photonics. Several industrial nations have recently conducted strategic studies that suggest that the field of photonics bears an extraordinary market […]

Nanotechnology Packs a Big Punch

In the nano regime, material characteristics are dominated by surface effects rather than bulk material effects, opening up a host of new possibilities. Nanotechnology is one of those buzzwords that gets tossed around a lot yet doesn’t seem to have a clear meaning. “The problem with nanotechnology is that everyone has a different definition,” says […]

Optical Engineers Build Photonics Foundations

Optical design is more than just stringing components together Like the bricks and mortar that hold up a building, optical engineering is the foundation of any system based on photonics. In a photonic system, the key to accomplishing a task is getting the photons where you want them to go, when you want them to […]

Taking the UV Challenge

Many important commercial applications use ultraviolet (UV) lasers, including microlithography, marking and micromachining, fiber Bragg grating (FBG) fabrication, and medical procedures such as photorefractive keratectomy. One of the technical challenges encountered in the development of these applications has been the volume production of reliable, high-performance, laser-grade UV optics. The UV spectral region begins around 400 […]

Tuning Up

Widely tuneable telecom lasers may cut inventory cost and lead to new routing schemes. As telecommunications carriers strive to increase the number of channels in their wavelength-division multiplexing systems from 40 to 80 to 160 and beyond, they’re faced with having to plug in more and more lasers, one for each wavelength; they also need […]

Market Makeovers

Consumer-driven medical laser applications such as cosmetic surgery are propelling the industry. If you’re like most of the world, you associate medical lasers with aesthetic and ophthalmic procedures, courtesy of network news, daily papers, and magazines. Resurface your skin! Throw away your glasses and contacts! Never shave again! So far so good, but the reality […]

Total Immersion

Streaming 3-D video, audio, and a sense of touch will surround people with a virtual environment over their high-speed Internet connections. By now, the Internet has become an inescapable part of everyday life. What office could run without e-mail, for instance? But imagine adding a new optical component to the system—a three-dimensional, real-time visual display […]

Fiber Lasers Mark Their Territory

Compact, efficient, and air-cooled, they’re displacing Nd:YAGs in industrial applications, and they may make their way into telecom. Lasers that use optical fiber for a resonator cavity are making inroads into industry, replacing bigger, bulkier devices. “It’s a very interesting technology and something that really could be a disruptive technology in the laser business,” says […]

On Display

Microdisplays based on III-nitride wide band-gap semiconductors put the future in our hands. Microdisplays are tiny, but when put into an eyeglasses headset and viewed through a lens system, they can provide a virtual image comparable to viewing a 21-in. diagonal TV or computer screen or larger. Microdisplays can satisfy demands for hands-free and highly […]

Communicating in Parallel

Multimedia is poised on the edge of a major revolution as fiber brings high bandwidth to the access network. Multimedia. Though the term is often bandied about, the definition, for many, is vague. Robert Aston, president of Market Vision (Santa Cruz, CA) and coauthor with Joyce Schwartz of Multimedia: Gateway to the Next Millennium, has […]

Staying Ahead of the Game

Maintaining diversity in an ever-changing industry is smart strategy. Whoosh. Is that the sound of optical companies scrambling to support the needs of the telecom industry? Or is it the sound of the air rushing out of the telecom bubble? The problem is that it may be both. As many have remarked, history does repeat […]

IR Determines the Effectiveness of Drugs

As the worldwide pharmaceutical market continues to grow, it requires more effective and quicker drug-testing methods in order to thrive. Thermal imaging may be the answer. Thermogenic Imaging (Billerica, MA), a spinoff of FLIR Systems Inc. (Portland, OR) and GlaxoSmithKline PLC (GSK; Greenford, UK), has developed thermal-imaging technology designed to help streamline drug-discovery applications. An […]

Into Thin Air

Under test as an access loop solution, optical wireless technology sends voice and data over free space. Fiber-optic networks transmit enormous amounts of voice/data traffic around the world, but the technology is not the universal telecommunications panacea. Deployment of fiber networks is expensive and time consuming. Particularly in urban areas, laying fiber requires getting permits, […]

Meeting DWDM Demands

Optics companies need to respond to the challenge of upscaling processes and capabilities if they want to survive the networking boom. We all have seen the projections: The optical networking market is expected to grow at a rate of about 50 percent per year for the next five years. Implementation of these networks will require […]

Brightness on Display

In 1987 the research group at Eastman Kodak Research Laboratories (Rochester, NY) reported an organic electroluminescent diode with some rather remarkable characteristics. By choosing organic instead of inorganic semiconductors in a novel device resembling a conventional p-n diode, we produced intensive electroluminescence while using a low-drive voltage. This efficiency indicated great potential for display applications, […]

Visionary Technology

Disruptive technologies like LCoS and OLEDs are shouldering their way to the forefront of a microdisplay market in flux. Where there is technology, there is change, and the display market is a case in point. Once upon a time, CRT technology was the lone contender of the display world, cornering every niche from monitors to […]

Tools of the Trade

Photonics provides scientists with sophisticated tools such as ultrafast, tunable lasers, high-sensitivity detectors, and various other types of analysis instrumentation. There was a time when science meant beakers and microscopes, electricity and balances. These days, researchers have added more sophisticated tools to their labs. Whether it’s particle image velocimetry, laser-assisted mass-absorption spectroscopy, or optically tracked […]

At the Speed of Light

Spectra-Physics (Mountain View, CA) turns 40 this year. And no, it’s not facing a midlife crisis, but the timing does provide an opportunity to take a look at where the industry has been and where it’s going. The company was founded in 1961, less than a year after the invention of the laser, and has […]

Photonics in Fast-Forward

History repeats itself, and this time we may get it right. Now that we’re in the age in which everything is moving at the speed of light, it’s no wonder that our technological advances in photonics are racing to keep up. Although the technology is improving in record time, the challenge is for companies in […]

Picking Up Speed

Ultrafast lasers make their way out of the lab and into the market. Titanium-doped sapphire (Ti:sapphire) ultrafast lasers have come a long way since the devices were introduced in the early 1990s, and their makers are hoping they’ll continue their march out of the lab and into industry. Ultrafast lasers operate with pulses ranging from […]

Facts About Fiber

Optical fiber is central to the successful operation of a wide variety of high-speed communications applications, from local area networks (LANs) to long-haul systems to emerging metropolitan area networks. Each of these applications has unique technical requirements, for which a specific optical fiber has been developed to provide optimized performance and high value. Every optical […]