Photonics technologies are extensive. Photonics make several applications possible, including optical fibers that transmit information over the internet, screens on smartphones and computer gadgets, increased precision manufacturing, better military capabilities, and a myriad of medical diagnostics instruments.
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In the next few decades, opportunities provided by photonics have the potential to have a much more societal impact. Photonics will be at the heart of some of the most competitive and high-profile marketplaces in history, with a £14.5 billion niche industry.
Optical Fiber with Lasers
Lasers will be utilized across all inter-satellite communications for low-orbit satellites constellation by 2035, providing the quickest connection to even the most distant corners of the UK.
Optical lines will become the norm for satellite-to-earth communications to address the ever-increasing need for location-independent bandwidth.
Because laser light is a single wavelength light source, it is ideal for optical fiber communication systems. The light released by a light bulb or the sun is a blend of several distinct wavelengths. Since the light waves in such a beam are out of phase, it does not form a particularly strong beam.
Laser beams, on the other hand, have a single wavelength and all of their waves are in phase, resulting in very intense light. The wavelength of an optical fiber affects the speed of light going through it. Because common light has a variety of wavelengths, disparities in transmission speed develop, limiting the number of messages that may be conveyed in a given amount of time.
Since it is a single wavelength light source with a consistent phase, laser light travels smoothly with extremely minimal dispersion, making it excellent for long-distance communications.
Next-Generation High-Speed Optical Network
Lasers may be able to address the needs of next-generation high-speed optical networks. They are great transmission sources because of their inexpensive cost, extensive tunability, low energy consumption, and excellent spectrum response.
Laser lights are widely used as high-speed data transmission light sources in optical fiber communication. They are tiny in size, offer easy integration, and high output powers. Stimulated emission produces coherent emission within those lasers, and electrical injection is achieved in the active area of the semiconductor.
Because these diode lasers are small, they can be mass-produced using well-established manufacturing techniques. Semiconductor lasers are extremely efficient at transforming electrical energy into optical energy.
Economic Benefit of Optical Identification and Labeling
Manufacturing digitalization is expected to have a £455 billion economic benefit and a 4.5% decrease in CO2 emissions. One-third of the £11 billion worldwide laser market is used for material processing.
However, industry adoption in the UK is low, particularly outside of the top manufacturers. By 2035, correcting this would create £8 billion in total yearly revenues from laser manufacturing and allow an additional 20,000 UK enterprises to use this crucial productivity booster.
Laser image processing and computer vision will be critical to supporting competitive electric motor and battery manufacturing in the UK, including innovation required to adapt to a broad variety of materials.
Photonics is only getting started in agriculture, for example. Laser-based milking machines, invented in the United Kingdom, are beginning to gain traction in the market, boosting dairy production and animal welfare. By 2035, photonics will have digitized agronomy, enabling a revolution in food production.
The circular economy's entire potential worth extends much beyond just recycling materials or upcycling them. This value is incorporated in the reuse, repair, refurbishing, and remanufacturing of components and products. Therefore, strengthening these reverse setups and skills is equally crucial.
Complex, multi-tier inbound supplier networks have been mastered by businesses. In the photonics market, in order to seize the potential, value, and supply security in the UK, companies must enable scale-up across the board to fulfill demand from multi-billion pound markets. The same level of skill is now required to orchestrate post-use value streams across many reverse cycle partners.
More Than 50% of Nobel Prices Linked to Photonics
To further human knowledge, large-scale fundamental research employs photonics such as telescopes, particle accelerators, and high-power lasers with optical pumping. In the previous 25 years, 50% of all Nobel Prizes in Physics have been linked to photonics discoveries or have directly relied on photonics as a discovery method.
From quantum computers to secure quantum communications, the exciting new realm of quantum superposition technologies is based directly on photonics or requires photonics to work.
UK a Photonic Scientific Powerhouse with High Market Growth
It is hard to predict what, where, and when new discoveries will be produced, but it is clear that photonics will be used in the majority of cases. If the UK aspires to be a scientific powerhouse, it must be a photonics superpower, with everything from extreme high-power lasers to telescopes, single photons, and super resolution microscopes.
By 2035, transmitted data will have transmitted over 99.5% of the journey time as light. As a result, photonics is critical to our digital security. The need to strengthen UK expertise in this important infrastructure is clearly understood. UK innovations include optical amplifiers and optical fibers. In the UK, secure quantum communication is being developed.
By 2035, the United Kingdom will have regained its position as a worldwide supplier of key communications infrastructure.
References and Further Reading
World Economic Forum. (2014). Towards the Circular Economy: Accelerating the scale-up across global supply chains. [Online] Available at: https://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_ENV_TowardsCircularEconomy_Report_2014.pdf
Photonics UK. (2022). Photonics 2035 The Vision. [Online] Available at: https://photonicsuk.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/Photonics_2035_Vision_Web_1.0.pdf
F. S. Ujager, S. M. H. Zaidi and U. Younis. (2010) A review of semiconductor lasers for optical communications. 7th International Symposium on High-capacity Optical Networks and Enabling Technologies, pp. 107-111, https://doi.org/10.1109/HONET.2010.5715754