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The Decade's 5 Best Market Trends in Photonics

By Tom Hausken
Well, it'over: the decade-that-could-not-be-named (2001-2010). Time for a list of the Decade's 5 Best Market Trends in Photonics:

The triumph of flat displays. Remember the see-through iMacs? Don't CRTs look soooo 20th century now? And how about the touch screens for smart phones? They don't just make a nicer phone. They transform how we live. This is #1 because of the sheer size of the display industry, and its impact on everything else.

Cellphone cameras relaunch the image sensor market. The first cameraphone showed up in 2000, in Japan. There are now over 1 billion mobile phone handsets shipped every year, and most have cameras. That volume drives lots of other applications. And the quality! Again, transformative, and billions in new photonics revenue.

The Green Revolution: LEDs and solar. High-brightness LEDs are all about taking an old technology and improving the brightness to do some new things--a marketing VP's dream. This decade saw LEDs in mobile phones and TV backlights, but the talk now is about LED lighting taking over the world. And how about that solar market! Many investors have lost money in solar companies, but they keep coming. Somehow, we all want to be part of it. (I was too, back that was back in the 1970s.)

Molecular imaging and all other thing biophotonic. The average person on the street doesn't know it, but photonics is making a huge impact in biomedicine, from diagnostics to therapy. Optical molecular imaging is my favorite because of the promise it brings in finally solving some difficult and costly medical challenges. But there is also mid-IR spectroscopy, ultrafast surgery, OCT, and many more.

IPG and the fiber laser. Several companies had fiber laser products in the 1990s, but IPG Photonics gets credit for making it a big name in materials processing today, and the 5th largest maker of non-diode lasers. Ha! No one is laughing now. The fiber laser is one of the laser types you would design if you could pick only one, and if you had the materials you have today. The diode laser is the other.

There you have it. Next time if I get to it, the Decade's 5 Un-Trends in Photonics.

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