Asia-Pacific: A Powerhouse Region

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As technology advances, so, too, does the level of competition among product developers. Those in the Asia-Pacific region are dashing to the front of the pack, boosting the market in various sectors of photonics.

Asia-Pacific is expected to see a higher annual growth rate between 2017 and 2022 in the photonics market than any other region, according to market research firm MarketsandMarkets. Its December 2017 report cites communications technology and the increasing adoption of products for applications in displays, lighting and information as growth contributors. Increased government spending on such technology in manufacturing is also expected to fuel growth in the Asia-Pacific region.

An August 2017 report by market analysts BCC Research notes that Asia-Pacific leads the global photonic integrated circuit (PIC) market, specifically with optical communication applications. By 2022, it’s estimated to reach $426 million — an increase of about 41 percent over 2017.

Researchers and engineers across the Asia-Pacific region also are introducing innovations, such as a new positioning technology from a team led by Queensland University of Technology in Australia that uses mounted cameras to track a vehicle’s position in underground mining tunnels. In China, a team of researchers led by Nanjing University and Nankai University is working on a vector polarizer design that could enable flexible filtering of a wide range of light sources as well as the generation of new light states. Notably, the design could tailor light intensity, phase and polarization, and shows potential for quantum communications.

Photonics Spectra spoke with Rich Mildren, an Australian Research Council Future Fellow and associate professor at Macquarie University, about the state of the market throughout Asia-Pacific, the region’s role in the industry, and how advancements there are helping change the landscape for photonics technology.

Q: What concerns are impacting the Asia-Pacific region?

A: Our research includes several projects that are either in close collaboration with industry or rely on industry contributions. The projects are usually directed toward IP creation to assist industry strategy and product pipelines. We obtain great benefit from these connections through the additional project resourcing and through impact from research translation to products.

This is likely to increase as the Australian government and [Macquarie] University are putting strategies in place to foster such partnerships and to conduct research with world-changing impact. So far, most of the connections are with companies in Australia or Europe, where we traditionally have had strong links. Links with industry in the Asia-Pacific (including the U.S., Japan and China) have been more challenging, but the future outlook for building regional links looks very bright.

Q: What is some notable research and work currently happening at Macquarie?

A: I work at the MQ Photonics Research Centre, which is host to one of Australia’s largest efforts in photonics and optics research. There are approximately 40 academics and postdocs in areas as diverse as astrophotonics, quantum optics, nanophotonics and biophotonics, as well as in fundamental aspects of advanced laser materials and integrated device research. One notable area in my own research is the development of diamond lasers and related devices that use the extreme properties of diamond to considerably extend capability.

For example, diamond Raman lasers look extremely promising for realizing lasers of unprecedented brightness and wavelength range. This is an area that is rich in new physics, as well as where the outcomes can lead to solutions to challenges currently important to industry in the short term.

Q: What do you anticipate for the future of the industry, and where do you think the Asia-Pacific region will fit in?

A: The optics and laser industry in the Asia-Pacific is massive and growing, particularly so in China, but also other countries in the region. The global balance of innovation and R&D is likely to continue to tip toward this region, as well as the manufacture of cutting-edge optical technologies. We are already factoring this shift into our future collaborations.

We have already seen benefits to our research from collaborations with several universities and government research institutes. New Australian government initiatives have been set up to grow such academic exchanges, joint projects and joint research centers. So far, our interactions with industry have been focused in the West, but we are optimistic about the opportunities arising from the boom in Asia-Pacific innovation, particularly in the areas of green energy, health, advanced manufacturing and quantum technologies.

Published: January 2018
The technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of radiant energy whose quantum unit is the photon. The science includes light emission, transmission, deflection, amplification and detection by optical components and instruments, lasers and other light sources, fiber optics, electro-optical instrumentation, related hardware and electronics, and sophisticated systems. The range of applications of photonics extends from energy generation to detection to communications and...
quantum optics
The area of optics in which quantum theory is used to describe light in discrete units or "quanta" of energy known as photons. First observed by Albert Einstein's photoelectric effect, this particle description of light is the foundation for describing the transfer of energy (i.e. absorption and emission) in light matter interaction.
Nanophotonics is a branch of science and technology that explores the behavior of light on the nanometer scale, typically at dimensions smaller than the wavelength of light. It involves the study and manipulation of light using nanoscale structures and materials, often at dimensions comparable to or smaller than the wavelength of the light being manipulated. Aspects and applications of nanophotonics include: Nanoscale optical components: Nanophotonics involves the design and fabrication of...
Asia-Pacific Special SectionQuantum TechnologiesPhotonics Research CentrephotonicsAsia-Pacific regionquantum opticsnanophotonicsBiophotonicsLasers

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