April/May 2008


Complex, technical products in a commodity world

The photonics market is all about designing, building, marketing, and servicing electro optic and electro mechanical devices that make our lives better, from surgical instruments to space exploration. Everywhere we turn we are confronted with smart people who are dedicated to developing the next breakthough. These are technologists, inventors, and entrepreneurs working in well-equipped labs, institutions of higher learning, and in the midst of what is a seemingly endless money pit of government projects.


Reaching the market

Being a technology-driven industry, photonics depends on innovation and the development of new products. A fair proportion of this innovation comes not from huge R&D departments at multi-national photonics manufacturers, but rather from engineers toiling away in laboratories and garden sheds up and down the land. So, what do you do when you hit upon an invention that you are certain will revolutionise the photonics industry? For many, the first port of call is to seek out a distributor.


The quality of spectroscopy

The spectrometer is one of the scientist’s most treasured laboratory tools. It equips researchers with the ability to measure the exact wavelengths of light emitted and absorbed by a substance – telltale fingerprints that can indicate the chemical composition and atomic structure of an unknown material. The process is so fundamental that spectrometers are practically ubiquitous in scientific laboratories. Chris Lynch from PerkinElmer explains: ‘UV and visible spectrometry is one of the oldest and broadest techniques in the lab.


Miniature marvels

Nanophotonics is living up to the hype. The study of light on the nanoscale might have been a ‘buzzword’ within optics circles a couple of years ago, but this tiny science is now moving away from the world of theoretical science and new research facilities are popping up in laboratories around the world.

And, with it, nanophotonics brings a myriad of new nano-prefixed buzzwords, including nanocapacitors, nanoforests, nanorice and nanoshells. But the real buzz is around the applications that using light as a tool on the submicron scale could open up.


In a material world

The use of lasers in materials processing continues to accelerate. Quality improvements in existing laser techniques and the development of new laser technologies is driving the development of rapid manufacturing – closing the gap with conventional production techniques on volume, cost and range of materials.


The meter masters

The name of Gentec has been around in photonics for many years, with its power and energy meters being trusted old stagers in many a university laboratory. In the past seven years, though, it has found a new lease of life with a focus on the power and energy meter market, and a dynamic new owner.

The product range has been developed with new ideas coming forward; the company has emerged again with its own particular culture, based on the long-term sustainable business rather than ‘smash and grab’.