Definition: the technology of electronic devices that interact with light
Alternative term: optronics
Categories: photonic devices, optoelectronics
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Author: Dr. Rüdiger Paschotta
Optoelectronics (also called optronics) is the technology of electronic devices that interact with light, which may be in the visible, the infrared or ultraviolet spectral region. Examples of optoelectronic devices are:
- laser diodes, superluminescent diodes and light-emitting diodes (LEDs), converting electrical energy to light
- photodetectors (e.g. photodiodes and phototransistors), converting optical signals into electric currents
- imaging detectors, based on electronic image sensors
- electro-optic modulators, used for manipulating the power, phase or polarization of light with an electrical control signal
- electroabsorption modulators
- opto-isolators for transmitting analog or digital signals while maintaining electric isolation
- photonic integrated circuits, hosting electrical and optical components on some kind of chip (see also: silicon photonics)
- photoemissive detectors such as phototubes and photomultipliers, also image intensifiers
Optoelectronic devices are used in a wide variety of application areas, such as optical fiber communications, laser technology, and all kinds of optical metrology.
Optoelectronics is largely based on semiconductor materials. These exhibit suitable bandgap energies for absorbing e.g. near-infrared and visible light, and their electric conductivity (albeit not perfect) is also essential for such applications. In both aspects, dielectrics would be hard to use, while metals serve mostly as conductors, apart from the exploitation of the external photoelectric effect in some photodetectors.
Indirect band gap materials such as silicon and germanium are often sufficient for exploiting absorption processes, for example in photodetectors, but are generally less suited for emitting light. This is a substantial challenge for silicon photonics, where however various kinds of solutions has been found. Still, emitting devices such as laser diodes are largely based on direct band gap materials, particularly of III–V type – for example, gallium arsenide and indium phosphide.
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See also: electro-optics, quantum electronics, laser physics, silicon photonics, photodetectors, photodiodes, image sensors, laser diodes, semiconductors
and other articles in the categories photonic devices, optoelectronics
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