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Chapter 11:
What Does the Light on the Horizon Look Like?
Optics and photonics are in an expanding mode across a broad range of technologies and markets. The question is, what does the light on the horizon look like? In Appendix IV, a partial list of venture-capital firms is listed, including the photonics-related companies that they have invested in and their focus areas for the future. A heavy concentration of venture-capital investment is aimed at digital media, IT infrastructure, software, materials, semiconductors, life sciences, and clean energy. Photonics will have a role in these focus areas. The expanding Internet will require much higher capacity and create a need for more-advanced photonic components, modules, and systems to meet future bandwidth needs. Energy and energy alternatives will look for expanded photonics capability to meet optimized production levels for oil and gas recovery, as well as windmill and solar efficiency. Despite some missteps in surveillance and security, there have been many photonic-related successes, and the needs will expand not only for defense and homeland security, but for preventing counterfeiting, monitoring extreme weather, and other potentially catastrophic events that can be exceedingly disruptive and costly. Life sciences will benefit from advanced optics-based metrology as well as improved diagnostic and therapeutic techniques. Manufacturing now employs many processes that utilize light for cutting, curing, or measurement; these applications will expand. Another application that is emerging is in transportation. Applications for transportation include not only crash avoidance instrumentation but also driverless cars that navigate highways, read traffic signs, and obey traffic laws without driver intervention. The technology is based on integration of GPS, radar, and optical sensors with anticipated commercialization within five years. LED lighting is emerging not only in general lighting applications, but also in areas such as ultraviolet-light water purification. As the limits of current materials are reached, opportunities for new innovations will emerge in photonic-materials systems to push the envelope.
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