Spectroscopy on the spot and in the spotlight

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An internal debate recently arose among the editors here that revolved around whether the topic of spectroscopy deserves a feature article in every issue of Photonics Spectra. Even before this became our current editorial policy, some editors argued, spectroscopy was almost always assigned a monthly feature topic. Others trotted out old issues to demonstrate that this belief was empirically untrue and arguably irrelevant.

Those who advocated for publishing monthly spectroscopy articles further argued that the technology shares the same fundamental stature as lasers, optics, and optical detectors — the three component technologies we routinely feature in each issue. Other editors countered that this is a faulty analogy and slippery slope: Spectroscopy is better characterized, they contended, as a system-level application of lasers, optics, and detectors. And if it deserves a monthly feature, then why not lidar, optical networks, and similar systems that necessarily comprise lasers, optics, and detectors? Around we went.

Here we pause to affirm and emphasize that spectroscopy will continue to receive feature-level coverage in each issue of Photonics Spectra for the foreseeable future, despite the devil’s advocacy that — full disclosure — was raised by this often contrarian editor.

Ultimately, our reasoning was that spectroscopy, unlike similar laser-optics-detector systems, is nearly as versatile in the scale and scope of its application as are the component technologies on which it relies. Optical spectroscopy is also less limited than lidar or optical networks in the laser wavelengths, optical technologies, or detectors it employs. Lastly, without spectroscopy, photonics’ component technologies would never have achieved the penetration that they have in key end markets such as forensics, as Hank Hogan’s feature in this issue helps to illustrate.

Spectroscopy is so representative of the versatility and value of our industry that Photonics Media, in conjunction with the Society for Applied Spectroscopy, has assigned the technology as the center point for its next online conference.

Scheduled to run April 12-13, the event will feature over 20 presentations in four tracks: Emerging Technologies, Generating Results, Biospectroscopy, and Embedded Spectroscopy. A more detailed preview and an early program will appear in next month’s issue as well as online at, where you can register to attend for free.

Published: February 2022

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