Optical fibres are one of the most important components of the digital age. Most consumers will recognise the importance of these long, thin pieces of glass or silica in broadband communications, and many professionals in the field of photonics will also be familiar with the fibre lasers that have revolutionised the materials-processing market. Aside from these headline markets there are many less well-known applications, in which standard and speciality fibres have facilitated entirely new possibilities.
It’s been more than 50 years since Theodore Maiman demonstrated the first laser. His device used synthetic ruby as the gain medium emitting a deep red laser line at 694nm. Solid-state laser technology was born and since then numerous active laser materials have been developed for different wavelengths. Ruby, a sapphire, is still used today in areas like tattoo removal and holography.
Solar cells do not have to be heavy, rigid systems on roof tops. They can now be light-weight and flexible and integrated into anything from car roofs to handbags. And they don’t even need to be outside – many technologies also work by harvesting indoor light.
But the challenges of making flexible cells are enormous and the resultant cells often have very low efficiencies when compared with conventional silicon cells. So why go to the trouble of making flexible solar cells when rigid ones are easier to make and more efficient?
The world of photonics is filled with success stories of businesses exploiting very defined niches within the market, and then sticking to what they know and doing it better than their competitors. One such example of this is EOPC (Electro-Optical Products Corporation), based in New York City, USA.
Founded in 1992 by Ziva Tuchman, EOPC set out to serve the photonics market with a range of defined products.