December 2008/January 2009

FEATURE

Optimising optics

The benefits of modelling anything, from nanobots to jumbo jets, are easy to fathom. By optimising designs before reaching the prototype stage, designers can save a small fortune both in monetary terms and time spent optimising their ideas.

Optical design software is no stranger to these conventional and more specific advantages it brings to optical engineers. The software helps such engineers to design a range of optical systems, such as imaging and illumination systems.

FEATURE

Shooting the breeze

The concept of radar is well known and most people are familiar with images of radar screens from films and television. The principle of using radio waves to detect distant objects has been around since the beginning of the 20th century, when Christian Hülsmeyer demonstrated the feasability of detecting a ship in dense fog. The technology has advanced over the past century, in particular having received a huge impetus during the Second World War.

FEATURE

Show me the money

To fund or not to fund? That is the particularly thorny question for those dishing out the money within Europe’s photonics industry.

Photonics is big business, employing around 246,000 people in Europe (not including subcontractors) and with more than 5,000 companies involved in manufacturing photonics, most of which are SMEs, according to figures provided by SPIE.

FEATURE

Solar cells shine through

The last five years have seen a massive investment in alternative energy sources. Worries about global warming have combined with soaring oil and gas prices, together with political concerns over oil and gas suppliers such as Russia, Venezuela and Iran, to make renewables a booming market.

That has made solar cell manufacturing a growth sector. Companies have rushed to invest in the market, and new fabs have been opened at an accelerating rate. For laser manufacturers and system integrators, photovoltaic manufacturing has appeared as a major area.

FEATURE

The personal touch counts

The world of optics is a kind of high-tech haberdashery, with thousands of large and small components in umpteen variations needed in a different combination for every application. Over the years the industry has created huge catalogues listing the parts, the options and variations in specification, and maybe the price.