Daniel C. McCarthy, Senior News Editor
Somewhere, someday, someone may employ photonics to build a better mousetrap. The invention will require some sort of sensing component -- an interferometer, perhaps, or an infrared camera equipped with illumination, an image processor and pattern-recognition software to route signals via computer to a galvo-mounted laser. The laser component will require some sort of power supply, resonator or diode, beam delivery optics, coatings and so on. The parts are all commercially available and waiting for some systems integrator to select and get started. So why isn't the world beating a path to some clever integrator's door?
It's because the two most vital components to this application are not the sensor or the laser, but, rather, one, a mouse and, two, a buyer willing to purchase the photonics systems to snuff it. Although the world is full of mice baiting blue ruin, few buyers are willing to invest in a photonic mouser as long as cheaper and simpler systems comprising balsam, a spring-trap and peanut butter remain an option.
Competitive cost and ease of use are factors for component manufacturers, too. But integrators inhabit the often tricky terrain between these manufacturers and the larger commercial markets of nonphotonic component users. They interpret and translate the recondite performance specifications of photonic componentry into systems that deliver to the unversed masses a better understanding of how photonics benefits the bottom line.