Tim Bestwick, Bookham Technology
Instrumentation and consumer product designers are enamored of photonics technology. Products containing lasers, LEDs and detectors abound on the shelves of electronics stores, appliance centers and even the corner gas station. Photonics makes new inroads each month as users pass more information, more quickly, from one point to another.
The sole stumbling block to many new potential applications for photonics is the difficulty in assembling and integrating the myriad components, especially in a compact package. Despite their commercial availability in many forms, integrated optical devices have yet to find their way into mass markets, especially consumer applications. Without the volume of a mass market, integrated optical devices have cost about three orders of magnitude more than their electronic counterparts while offering much less complexity and, thus, less functionality.