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Photonics is the physical science of light (photon) generation, detection, and manipulation through emission, transmission, modulation, signal processing, switching, amplification, and sensing.Though covering all light's technical applications over the whole spectrum, most photonic applications are in the range of visible and near-infrared light. The term photonics developed as an outgrowth of the first practical semiconductor light emitters invented in the early 1960s and optical fibers developed in the 1970s.
Optics is the branch of physics that studies the behaviour and properties of light, including its interactions with matter and the construction of instruments that use or detect it. Optics usually describes the behaviour of visible, ultraviolet, and infrared light. Because light is an electromagnetic wave, other forms of electromagnetic radiation such as X-rays, microwaves, and radio waves exhibit similar properties.
The photon is a type of elementary particle, the quantum of the electromagnetic field including electromagnetic radiation such as light, and the force carrier for the electromagnetic force. The photon has zero rest mass and always moves at the speed of light within a vacuum.
In telecommunications, transmission is the process of sending and propagating an analogue or digital information signal over a physical point-to-point or point-to-multipoint transmission medium, either wired, optical fiber or wireless.
The word 'photonics' is derived from the Greek word "phos" meaning light (which has genitive case "photos" and in compound words the root "photo-" is used); it appeared in the late 1960s to describe a research field whose goal was to use light to perform functions that traditionally fell within the typical domain of electronics, such as telecommunications, information processing, etc.[ citation needed ]
Photonics as a field began with the invention of the laser in 1960. Other developments followed: the laser diode in the 1970s, optical fibers for transmitting information, and the erbium-doped fiber amplifier. These inventions formed the basis for the telecommunications revolution of the late 20th century and provided the infrastructure for the Internet.
A laser is a device that emits light through a process of optical amplification based on the stimulated emission of electromagnetic radiation. The term "laser" originated as an acronym for "Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation". The first laser was built in 1960 by Theodore H. Maiman at Hughes Research Laboratories, based on theoretical work by Charles Hard Townes and Arthur Leonard Schawlow.
A laser diode, (LD), injection laser diode (ILD), or diode laser is a semiconductor device similar to a light-emitting diode in which the laser beam is created at the diode's junction. Laser diodes can directly convert electrical energy into light. Driven by voltage, the doped p-n-transition allows for recombination of an electron with a hole. Due to the drop of the electron from a higher energy level to a lower one, radiation, in the form of an emitted photon is generated. This is spontaneous emission. Stimulated emission can be produced when the process is continued and further generate light with the same phase, coherence and wavelength.
An optical fiber is a flexible, transparent fiber made by drawing glass (silica) or plastic to a diameter slightly thicker than that of a human hair. Optical fibers are used most often as a means to transmit light between the two ends of the fiber and find wide usage in fiber-optic communications, where they permit transmission over longer distances and at higher bandwidths than electrical cables. Fibers are used instead of metal wires because signals travel along them with less loss; in addition, fibers are immune to electromagnetic interference, a problem from which metal wires suffer excessively. Fibers are also used for illumination and imaging, and are often wrapped in bundles so they may be used to carry light into, or images out of confined spaces, as in the case of a fiberscope. Specially designed fibers are also used for a variety of other applications, some of them being fiber optic sensors and fiber lasers.
Though coined earlier, the term photonics came into common use in the 1980s as fiber-optic data transmission was adopted by telecommunications network operators.[ citation needed ] At that time, the term was used widely at Bell Laboratories.[ citation needed ] Its use was confirmed when the IEEE Lasers and Electro-Optics Society established an archival journal named Photonics Technology Letters at the end of the 1980s.[ citation needed ]
During the period leading up to the dot-com crash circa 2001, photonics as a field focused largely on optical telecommunications. However, photonics covers a huge range of science and technology applications, including laser manufacturing, biological and chemical sensing, medical diagnostics and therapy, display technology, and optical computing. Further growth of photonics is likely if current silicon photonics developments are successful.
Silicon photonics is the study and application of photonic systems which use silicon as an optical medium. The silicon is usually patterned with sub-micrometre precision, into microphotonic components. These operate in the infrared, most commonly at the 1.55 micrometre wavelength used by most fiber optic telecommunication systems. The silicon typically lies on top of a layer of silica in what is known as silicon on insulator (SOI).
Photonics is closely related to optics. Classical optics long preceded the discovery that light is quantized, when Albert Einstein famously explained the photoelectric effect in 1905. Optics tools include the refracting lens, the reflecting mirror, and various optical components and instruments developed throughout the 15th to 19th centuries. Key tenets of classical optics, such as Huygens Principle, developed in the 17th century, Maxwell's Equations and the wave equations, developed in the 19th, do not depend on quantum properties of light.
Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of relativity, one of the two pillars of modern physics. His work is also known for its influence on the philosophy of science. He is best known to the general public for his mass–energy equivalence formula E = mc2, which has been dubbed "the world's most famous equation". He received the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics "for his services to theoretical physics, and especially for his discovery of the law of the photoelectric effect", a pivotal step in the development of quantum theory.
The photoelectric effect is the emission of electrons or other free carriers when light falls on a material. Electrons emitted in this manner can be called photo electrons. This phenomenon is commonly studied in electronic physics, as well as in fields of chemistry, such as quantum chemistry or electrochemistry.
A lens is a transmissive optical device that focuses or disperses a light beam by means of refraction. A simple lens consists of a single piece of transparent material, while a compound lens consists of several simple lenses (elements), usually arranged along a common axis. Lenses are made from materials such as glass or plastic, and are ground and polished or molded to a desired shape. A lens can focus light to form an image, unlike a prism, which refracts light without focusing. Devices that similarly focus or disperse waves and radiation other than visible light are also called lenses, such as microwave lenses, electron lenses, acoustic lenses, or explosive lenses.
Photonics is related to quantum optics, optomechanics, electro-optics, optoelectronics and quantum electronics. However, each area has slightly different connotations by scientific and government communities and in the marketplace. Quantum optics often connotes fundamental research, whereas photonics is used to connote applied research and development.
The term photonics more specifically connotes:
The term optoelectronics connotes devices or circuits that comprise both electrical and optical functions, i.e., a thin-film semiconductor device. The term electro-optics came into earlier use and specifically encompasses nonlinear electrical-optical interactions applied, e.g., as bulk crystal modulators such as the Pockels cell, but also includes advanced imaging sensors.
Photonics also relates to the emerging science of quantum information and quantum optics. Other emerging fields include:
Applications of photonics are ubiquitous. Included are all areas from everyday life to the most advanced science, e.g. light detection, telecommunications, information processing, photonic computing, lighting, metrology, spectroscopy, holography, medicine (surgery, vision correction, endoscopy, health monitoring), biophotonics, military technology, laser material processing, art diagnostics (involving InfraRed Reflectography, Xrays, UltraViolet fluorescence, XRF), agriculture, and robotics.
Just as applications of electronics have expanded dramatically since the first transistor was invented in 1948, the unique applications of photonics continue to emerge. Economically important applications for semiconductor photonic devices include optical data recording, fiber optic telecommunications, laser printing (based on xerography), displays, and optical pumping of high-power lasers. The potential applications of photonics are virtually unlimited and include chemical synthesis, medical diagnostics, on-chip data communication, laser defense, and fusion energy, to name several interesting additional examples.
Microphotonics and nanophotonics usually includes photonic crystals and solid state devices.
The science of photonics includes investigation of the emission, transmission, amplification, detection, and modulation of light.
Light sources used in photonics are usually far more sophisticated than light bulbs. Photonics commonly uses semiconductor light sources like light-emitting diodes (LEDs), superluminescent diodes, and lasers. Other light sources include single photon sources, fluorescent lamps, cathode ray tubes (CRTs), and plasma screens. Note that while CRTs, plasma screens, and organic light-emitting diode displays generate their own light, liquid crystal displays (LCDs) like TFT screens require a backlight of either cold cathode fluorescent lamps or, more often today, LEDs.
Characteristic for research on semiconductor light sources is the frequent use of III-V semiconductors instead of the classical semiconductors like silicon and germanium. This is due to the special properties of III-V semiconductors that allow for the implementation of light emitting devices. Examples for material systems used are gallium arsenide (GaAs) and aluminium gallium arsenide (AlGaAs) or other compound semiconductors. They are also used in conjunction with silicon to produce hybrid silicon lasers.
Light can be transmitted through any transparent medium. Glass fiber or plastic optical fiber can be used to guide the light along a desired path. In optical communications optical fibers allow for transmission distances of more than 100 km without amplification depending on the bit rate and modulation format used for transmission. A very advanced research topic within photonics is the investigation and fabrication of special structures and "materials" with engineered optical properties. These include photonic crystals, photonic crystal fibers and metamaterials.
Optical amplifiers are used to amplify an optical signal. Optical amplifiers used in optical communications are erbium-doped fiber amplifiers, semiconductor optical amplifiers, Raman amplifiers and optical parametric amplifiers. A very advanced research topic on optical amplifiers is the research on quantum dot semiconductor optical amplifiers.
Photodetectors detect light. Photodetectors range from very fast photodiodes for communications applications over medium speed charge coupled devices (CCDs) for digital cameras to very slow solar cells that are used for energy harvesting from sunlight. There are also many other photodetectors based on thermal, chemical, quantum, photoelectric and other effects.
Modulation of a light source is used to encode information on a light source. Modulation can be achieved by the light source directly. One of the simplest examples is to use a flashlight to send Morse code. Another method is to take the light from a light source and modulate it in an external optical modulator.
An additional topic covered by modulation research is the modulation format. On-off keying has been the commonly used modulation format in optical communications. In the last years more advanced modulation formats like phase-shift keying or even orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing have been investigated to counteract effects like dispersion that degrade the quality of the transmitted signal.
Photonics also includes research on photonic systems. This term is often used for optical communication systems. This area of research focuses on the implementation of photonic systems like high speed photonic networks. This also includes research on optical regenerators, which improve optical signal quality.[ citation needed ]
Photonic integrated circuits (PICs) are optically active integrated semiconductor photonic devices which consist of at least two different functional blocks, (gain region and a grating based mirror in a laser...). These devices are responsible for commercial successes of optical communications and the ability to increase the available bandwidth without significant cost increases to the end user, through improved performance and cost reduction that they provide. The most widely deployed PICs are based on Indium phosphide material system. Silicon photonics is an active area of research.
Key Applications for Integrated Photonics include —
Data Centers: Today, Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Google alone run massive cloud computing data centers. As companies and institutions store and process more information in the cloud, the demands on wired and wireless networks multiply. In 2013, the US National Resources Defense Council calculated that data centers consumed the equivalent of 34 large (500-Megawatt) coal-fired power plants, or enough energy to power New York City for two years. In another seven years, the amount of data traffic is predicted to double. Using integrated photonics technologies, the centers will be able to handle greater Terabit-scale data rates of traffic with nanosecond switching speeds, while consuming only half as much power, resulting in a dramatic cost savings. [ citation needed ]
Analog RF Signal Applications: Using the GHz precision signal processing of photonic integrated circuits, radiofrequency (RF) signals can be manipulated with high fidelity to add or drop multiple channels of radio, spread across an ultra-broadband frequency range. In addition, a photonic integrated circuit can remove background noise from an RF signal with unprecedented precision, which will increase the signal to noise performance and make possible new benchmarks in low power performance. Taken together, this high precision processing enables us to now pack large amounts of information into ultra-long distance radio communications. [ citation needed ]
Sensors: Photons can also be used to detect and differentiate the optical properties of materials. They can identify chemical or biochemical gases from air pollution, organic produce, and contaminants in the water. They can also be used to detect abnormalities in the blood, such as low glucose levels, and measure biometrics such as the pulse. Photonic integrated circuits are being designed as comprehensive and ubiquitous sensors with glass/silicon, and embedded via high-volume production in various mobile devices. [ citation needed ]
Mobile platform sensors are enabling us to more directly engage with practices that better protect the environment, monitor food supply and keep us healthy.
LIDAR and other Phased Array Imaging: Arrays of PICs can take advantage of phase delays in the light reflected from objects with three-dimensional shapes to reconstruct 3D images, and Light Imaging, Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) with laser light can offer a complement to radar by providing precision imaging (with 3D information) at close distances. This new form of machine vision is having an immediate application in driverless cars to reduce collisions, and in biomedical imaging. Phased arrays can also be used for free-space communications and novel display technologies. Current versions of LIDAR predominantly rely on moving parts, making them large, slow, low resolution, costly, and prone to mechanical vibration and premature failure. Integrated photonics can realize LIDAR within a footprint the size of a postage stamp, scan without moving parts, and be produced in high volume at low cost. [ citation needed ]
An optical amplifier is a device that amplifies an optical signal directly, without the need to first convert it to an electrical signal. An optical amplifier may be thought of as a laser without an optical cavity, or one in which feedback from the cavity is suppressed. Optical amplifiers are important in optical communication and laser physics. They are used as optical repeaters in the long distance fiberoptic cables which carry much of the world's telecommunication links.
A photodiode is a semiconductor device that converts light into an electrical current. The current is generated when photons are absorbed in the photodiode. Photodiodes may contain optical filters, built-in lenses, and may have large or small surface areas. Photodiodes usually have a slower response time as their surface area increases. The common, traditional solar cell used to generate electric solar power is a large area photodiode.
Optoelectronics is the study and application of electronic devices and systems that source, detect and control light, usually considered a sub-field of photonics. In this context, light often includes invisible forms of radiation such as gamma rays, X-rays, ultraviolet and infrared, in addition to visible light. Optoelectronic devices are electrical-to-optical or optical-to-electrical transducers, or instruments that use such devices in their operation. Electro-optics is often erroneously used as a synonym, but is a wider branch of physics that concerns all interactions between light and electric fields, whether or not they form part of an electronic device.
Indium phosphide (InP) is a binary semiconductor composed of indium and phosphorus. It has a face-centered cubic ("zincblende") crystal structure, identical to that of GaAs and most of the III-V semiconductors.
Photodetectors, also called photosensors, are sensors of light or other electromagnetic radiation. A photo detector has a p–n junction that converts light photons into current. The absorbed photons make electron–hole pairs in the depletion region. Photodiodes and photo transistors are a few examples of photo detectors. Solar cells convert some of the light energy absorbed into electrical energy.
Optical or photonic computing uses photons produced by lasers or diodes for computation. For decades, photons have promised to allow a higher bandwidth than the electrons used in conventional computers.
A fiber laser or fibre laser is a laser in which the active gain medium is an optical fiber doped with rare-earth elements such as erbium, ytterbium, neodymium, dysprosium, praseodymium, thulium and holmium. They are related to doped fiber amplifiers, which provide light amplification without lasing. Fiber nonlinearities, such as stimulated Raman scattering or four-wave mixing can also provide gain and thus serve as gain media for a fiber laser.
A photonic integrated circuit (PIC) or integrated optical circuit is a device that integrates multiple photonic functions and as such is similar to an electronic integrated circuit. The major difference between the two is that a photonic integrated circuit provides functions for information signals imposed on optical wavelengths typically in the visible spectrum or near infrared 850 nm-1650 nm.
A hybrid silicon laser is a semiconductor laser fabricated from both silicon and group III-V semiconductor materials. The hybrid silicon laser was developed to address the lack of a silicon laser to enable fabrication of low-cost, mass-producible silicon optical devices. The hybrid approach takes advantage of the light-emitting properties of III-V semiconductor materials combined with the process maturity of silicon to fabricate electrically driven lasers on a silicon wafer that can be integrated with other silicon photonic devices.
Fiber-optic communication is a method of transmitting information from one place to another by sending pulses of light through an optical fiber. The light forms an electromagnetic carrier wave that is modulated to carry information. Fiber is preferred over electrical cabling when high bandwidth, long distance, or immunity to electromagnetic interference are required.
The European Photonics Industry Consortium (EPIC) is a not-for-profit association with headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. EPIC serves the photonics community through a regular series of workshops, market studies and partnering. EPIC focuses its actions on LEDs and OLEDs for lighting, optical fiber telecommunications, laser manufacturing, sensors, photovoltaics and photonics for life sciences. EPIC coordinates its activities internationally through its membership in the International Optoelectronics Association.
An electro-absorption modulator (EAM) is a semiconductor device which can be used for modulating the intensity of a laser beam via an electric voltage. Its principle of operation is based on the Franz-Keldysh effect, i.e., a change in the absorption spectrum caused by an applied electric field, which changes the bandgap energy but usually does not involve the excitation of carriers by the electric field.
An optical modulator is an optical device which is used to modulate a beam of light with a perturbation device. It is a kind of transmitter to convert information to optical binary signal through optical fiber or transmission medium of optical frequency in fiber optic communication. There are several methods to manipulate this device depending on the parameter of a light beam like amplitude modulator (majority), phase modulator, polarization modulator etc. The easiest way to obtain modulation is modulation of intensity of a light by the current driving the light source. This sort of modulation is called direct modulation, as opposed to the external modulation performed by a light modulator. For this reason, light modulators are called external light modulators. According to manipulation of the properties of material modulators are divided into two groups, absorptive modulators and refractive modulators. Absorption coefficient can be manipulated by Franz-Keldysh effect, Quantum-Confined Stark Effect, excitonic absorption, or changes of free carrier concentration. Usually, if several such effects appear together, the modulator is called electro-absorptive modulator. Refractive modulators most often make use of electro-optic effect, other modulators are made with acousto-optic effect, magneto-optic effect such as Faraday and Cotton-Mouton effects. The other case of modulators is spatial light modulator (SLM) which is modified two dimensional distribution of amplitude & phase of an optical wave.
Semiconductor ring lasers (SRLs) are miniature ring laser devices with potential applications in optoelectronics, photonics and all-optical circuits. The first SRLs were developed in the 1980s. Recently, they have been of interest as potential random-access memory storage devices for all-optical computers.
An optical transistor, also known as an optical switch or a light valve, is a device that switches or amplifies optical signals. Light occurring on an optical transistor’s input changes the intensity of light emitted from the transistor’s output while output power is supplied by an additional optical source. Since the input signal intensity may be weaker than that of the source, an optical transistor amplifies the optical signal. The device is the optical analog of the electronic transistor that forms the basis of modern electronic devices. Optical transistors provide a means to control light using only light and has applications in optical computing and fiber-optic communication networks. Such technology has the potential to exceed the speed of electronics, while saving more power.
The superconducting nanowire single-photon detector (SNSPD) is a type of near-infrared and optical single-photon detector based on a current-biased superconducting nanowire. It was first developed by scientists at Moscow State Pedagogical University and at the University of Rochester in 2001.
An erbium-doped waveguide amplifier is a type of an optical amplifier. It is a close relative of an EDFA, Erbium-doped fiber amplifier, and in fact EDWA's basic operating principles are identical to those of the EDFA. Both of them can be used to amplify infrared light at wavelengths in optical communication bands between 1500 and 1600 nm. However, whereas an EDFA is made using a free-standing fiber, an EDWA is typically produced on a planar substrate, sometimes in ways that are very similar to the methods used in electronic integrated circuit manufacturing. Therefore, the main advantage of EDWAs over EDFAs lies in their potential to be intimately integrated with other optical components on the same planar substrate and thus making EDFAs unnecessary.