Wavelength Tech Forum: Optics/Lasers

April 15, 2008

This month's Technology Forum looks at the topic of Optics/Lasers and the trends and issues surrounding them. Joining us for this discussion are Eric Bergles, with BaySpec, and Rob Morris, with Ocean Optics.

This month’s Technology Forum looks at the topic of Optics/Lasers and the trends and issues surrounding them. Joining us for this discussion are Eric Bergles, with BaySpec, and Rob Morris, with Ocean Optics.

What has been the single-most important development in the field of optics in recent years?

(Bergles) The optical telecom “boom and bust” developments over the past 10 years in the optical telecommunication components sector has enabled breakthrough innovation in light sources, laser sources, passive optical components, and of course, electronics chips. These combined developments have allowed new optical devices not possible a few years ago.

(Morris) It’s very difficult to pick just one thing, given the rapid pace of development. Certainly the refinement of adaptive optics technology (which has been around since the ‘90s but continues to improve) has implications for imaging applications. Also, dichroic filter technologies, which have been used in many theatrical and architectural lighting applications, can be applied to scientific setups as well, providing simple yet robust wavelength-selective sensors for all sorts of uses.

What has been the single-most important development in the field of lasers in recent years?

(Bergles) Wide availability of tunable lasers in the telecom wavelength.

(Morris) With lasers, it seems as if the most interesting stuff has to do with how they are more easily integrated into applications such as laser welding; or how laser ablation sampling, such as is common with laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy, can be enhanced by applying microwave technology to plasmas. Laser TV and laser targeting are other applications that seem to have drawn attention of late.

How are advances in LED lighting affecting the optics industry?

(Bergles) We do not see much effect, as lighting is a different segment of the optics industry. To some degree, higher volume wafer flow has enabled improvements in epitaxial growth efficiency.

(Morris) Very dramatically, I think. Because LEDs have become so much brighter and more versatile in recent years, and because they inherently are low power and low cost, there has been considerable attention paid to finding ways to more efficiently characterize them. What’s more, we believe there are some ways to integrate some new optical technologies into LED production to create a more efficient product.

What do you see on the horizon in regards to quantum cascade lasers having an effect on the laser industry?

(Bergles) The quantum cascade laser would be very useful in the IR region as laser sources for spectroscopy, which is very important in spectroscopic sensing and gas measurements.

How can quantum dots impact optical applications?

(Bergles) Quantum dots, if successfully productized, will likely provide only incremental improvements. The main limitation will be the cost of fabrication and the lack of control over positioning dots.

(Morris) The potential here is enormous – everything from being markers for medical diagnostics to creating light for LEDs. Quantum dots seem to be one very successful, wide-ranging application away from being thought of as less of a research and development tool and more of a mass-volume component to larger optical systems.

What do you think?

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