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Definition: the science and technology of light

German: Photonik

Category: photonic devices

How to cite the article; suggest additional literature

Photonics is the science and technology of light, with an emphasis on applications. This term is used since the mid-1970s. An alternative term is lightwave technology. At the heart of photonics are technologies for generating light (e.g. with lasers or with light-emitting diodes), transmitting, amplifying, modulating and detecting light, and particularly using light for practical purposes. It thus builds heavily on optical technology, supplemented with modern developments such as lasers and amplifiers. Typical application areas are

Photonic key technologies of particular importance are lasers and amplifiers, light-emitting diodes (LEDs), optical fibers and other waveguides, optical modulators, photodetectors (including cameras), and displays.

There is an analogy with electronics: just as electronics is the utilization of electrons, photonics works on the basis of photons. The quantum (photon) nature of light is often, but by far not always of interest in photonics.

Importance of Photonics

Photonics is considered as one of the key technologies of the 21st century. It supplements electronics in the form of optoelectronics (optronics) and exhibits a strong market growth, which is expected to continue for the foreseeable future. So far, photonics has achieved a deep penetration of mass markets in only a few areas, e.g. laser diodes in CD/DVD players and related data storage equipment. Huge growth opportunities could arise from the development of silicon photonics and other technologies for photonic integrated circuits, from LEDs with improved output power and efficiency, or from laser types (e.g. VECSELs) which are suitable for cost-effective mass production.

The importance of photonics is also underlined by the substantial number of Nobel Prizes awarded in recent years:


[1]Conference proceedings Photonics, edited by M. Balkanski and P. Lallemand, Gauthier-Villars, Paris (1975)”
[2]C. Roychoudhuri (ed.), Fundamentals of Photonics, course for first- and second-year college students, available on CD-ROM or online open access via http://spie.org/x17229.xml
[3]B. E. A. Saleh and M. C. Teich, Fundamentals of Photonics, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York (1991)
[4]Day of Photonics, http://day-of-photonics.org/

(Suggest additional literature!)

See also: laser physics, optoelectronics, quantum electronics, silicon photonics, photonic integrated circuits
and other articles in the category photonic devices

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