by Max Braun
Photonics, optoelectronics, spectroscopy, and other scientific terms sound like some words a scientist made up (well technically they did), but they are actually descriptions of a very specialized field of particle physics called Photonics.
In laymens terms, Photonics is the study of light and optics. It’s a very simple definition, but the field is so massive and broad that it’s applications are used in just about everything. Stop and think for a moment – how much of your daily life is affected by lights, heat, and physics? If you go through your daily routine, you’ll actually find that almost everything you do is affected by these.
Here’s a few obvious examples of what the Photonics field is used for – every light bulb, flashlight, and device that emits any kind of light. This can also be digital signal displays such as computer monitors, cell phones displays, and HD television. This are the most obvious applications of photonics as they’re in your life every single day.
But what about the more discrete applications? How about telescopes, they uses lenses to refrect light to enable you to see great distances. What else uses lenses? Your glasses sure do.
There’s also biomedical imaging – such as xrays and ultrasound – those were made possible because of the photonics industry. And thanks to it, there are people doing research on how to use lasers and lights to deal with serious medical illness (i.e. There are several Universities doing research on using lasers to get rid of cancer and alzheimers disease, etc).
Digital signals are sent thanks to photonics technology breakthroughs, such as fiber optics – that fastest known median for data communication. Imagine where the world would be without things like satellite transmission – there’d be no cellular phones, no live pictures from other parts of the world, and no way to predict the weather all around the world. Again, these are just a few of the applications that are available today because of this research.
Just about every military uses photonics-based technology as well. Did you know that almost all US aircraft are equipped with multple laser-based technologies? They’re in place to communicate with their superiors, target their weapons, and defend themselves – there’s a laser that is designed to destroy incomming missiles that has been mounted on several aircraft.
What Sides Are There?
There’s several different groups of people who are part of the photonics industry, and you’re in at least one of them:
Researchers – Most universities provide grants and resources to expand the field of photonics. They realize how massive and important the field is that it’s quite uncommon to find a university that isn’t putting research into it.
Manufacturers – These large companies will take the research from the universities and turn it into products (such as glasses, telescopes, light bulbs, etc).
Customers – That’s us, the people who buy the goods that are a direct result from photonics research. Think about this – how many light bulbs do you go through every year? How often do you get new glasses or contact lenses? Those products are on the market today thanks to the research that is done.
If you are interested in learning more about photonics, there are numerous books available as well as online publications. Be warned though, it’s a fascinating field and you might get hooked!
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