Zintro experts outline top picks for optical engineering and photonics innovation

By Maureen Aylward

The fields of optical engineering and photonics cover so many ideas, projects, and applications. We wanted to hear from our Zintro experts about their top picks for the most innovative ideas, research, or applications.

John Sugrim, an electro-optical engineer, says his top pick for innovation in optical engineering is the use of lasers in the medical field, specifically using lasers with optical fibers to deliver optical radiation for specific purpose. “One of the most exciting developments I have seen is using fibers to deliver UV radiation to a catheter that is implanted in the human body,” says Sugrim. “Running this leaky fiber in the catheter with UV radiation sterilizes the device in situ. Another major impact is photoactivation of a drug that is delivered to the human body.”

Another top pick of Sugrim’s is the use laser for spectroscopy. “Lasers of a certain frequency can pick out a needle in a haystack quickly,” he says. “The key point of saturation spectroscopy is that laser frequency has to be resonant with the particulate you are looking for.” Sugrim says this technology is in use in detecting chemical and biological agents in the atmosphere and for genome sequencing.

Sugrim’s third pick is the actual development of lasers. “We have seen development in the smaller wavelength laser, pushing into the deep UV regions and the long IR. Both of these directions are important to further the development of the technology,” he says. “For instance, in deep UV lasers, this will allow production of smaller transistors because these lasers use the photo lithography process. In the long IR case, these lasers are used for hard tissue ablation, such as for a drill-less root canal.”

Luis Figueroa, a technical domain expert in photonics, communications, networking and electromagnetic technologies, says that silicon based photonics (integrating IC technology with optoelectronic devices on a Si substrate) is making significant research advances. “It offers the potential for monolithic integration of Si IC technology with Si-based optoelectronic devices for the creation of a new generation of communication and computing interconnects,” says Figueroa. “The future of Si photonic integrated circuits (PICs) will be built with higher complexity and reduced cost, and significantly reduced power/bit data. A few companies have fully integrated silicon photonics technology for transceivers that are used in short and medium range optical interconnects in data centers and supercomputers.”

Figueroa says that nanotechnology offers the potential for creating photonics crystals and meta-materials for tailoring the optical properties of structures over a range of frequency bands and the creation of ultra-sensitive detectors; for example, in detecting trace amounts of explosives and very high speed optical and ultra-linear modulators for high performance RF analog links.

“Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM), an optical multiplexing technology used to increase bandwidth over existing fiber networks, is continuing to advance at a rapid rate and offers the ultimate potential for cloud computing with broadband access at any location,” says Figueroa. “Without DWDM, Web 2.0 and cloud computing would probably not exist in its present form. In the area of laser communications, DWDM technology offers the potential for Terabits/s communication pipes and the integration of satellite, aircraft, and ground links. Lastly, the technology offers the potential to revolutionize military systems by significantly reducing the wiring complexity and, at the same time, increase the bandwidth throughput for handling the exponentially increasing data loads.”

By Maureen Aylward

What do you think?

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