Optics and Photonics – An Enabling Technology
The overall economic impact of optics and photonics is two-fold:
- The direct impact stems from the fact that photonic and optics components and systems constitute economic markets in their own right, growing at rates that far surpass the average growth rate of any other areas of the economy.
- Much more important is the huge secondary impact, resulting from the use and applications of photonics and optics components, systems, tools and techniques in practically all other sectors of the economy.
The 1998 report prepared by the National Research Council “Harnessing Light: Optical Science and Engineering for the 21st Century” recognizes optics as an enabling technology, i.e. a technology playing a supporting role in several areas of national interest.
Below are the seven areas identified by the report, in which photonics has already made and is expected to make an even larger impact in the future, along with examples of photonics applications in those respective fields. This list is a selective one rather than all inclusive, as there is virtually no field of human activity on which optics and photonics has not made an impact, and new applications are emerging at an amazing pace. At the same time, the boundaries between these fields are rather fluid and blurry, as more often than not the same photonic components, techniques and/or systems are used or adapted for use in many more than only one field. Therein lies the strength of the interdisciplinary nature of photonics, and the tremendous opportunities it opens.
- Information Technology and Telecommunications
- Health Care and the Life Sciences – Biophotonics
- Optical Sensing, Lighting, Energy and Displays
- Optics in Manufacturing
- National Security and Defense
- Manufacturing of Optical Systems and Components
- Education and Research