February/March 2009


A measure of free trade

A 250g piece of Roquefort purchased in France should weigh exactly the same as a 250g piece bought in New York. Of course, the American version will be labelled as weighing 8 ounces and will be slightly more expensive thanks to the punitive 300 per cent import duty imposed by the outgoing Bush administration. The point of this (somewhat cheesy) reference is that sharing specifications in an unambiguous way is a basic tenet of modern business, but this was not always so.


The tomorrow people

The health of the photonics sector relies on a steady stream of graduates finding careers in the marketplace. However, a number of companies have expressed concerns over a potential lack of fresh talent moving into the sector. During a Photonics21 workshop on education and training in June 2008, Augustin Siegel, head of R&D at optical and optoelectronic company Carl Zeiss AG, reported that in Germany 142,900 highly-skilled employees will be needed in the photonics industry by 2015, which equates to an additional 1,000 graduates per year being trained.


Dumbing down?

Lasers are popping up everywhere, but with a widening range of applications, an increasing number of people need to make sure the kit works within a range of safety standards.


Organic growth

The development of Organic Light Emitting Diodes (OLEDs) by Kodak in the 1980s and the subsequent technological advances made over the ensuing years has led to a great deal of hype surrounding the light emitting polymers. OLEDs have long been touted as a replacement for Liquid Crystal Displays (LCDs) as the dominant display technology, promising a greater range of colours, improved power efficiency, and potentially cheaper manufacturing methods.


Non-invasive innovation

Biophotonics is one of the fastest growing applications for laser instrumentation and measurement. According to life science market research firm Kalorama Information, the biophotonics market is growing at an annual rate of 31 per cent, and will be worth $133bn by 2016.

The main thrust of biophotonic applications is the rapid, non-invasive identification of protein and genome structures. Biophotonic applications in mass spectroscopy, cytometry and microscopy are beginning to show major advantages over conventional techniques in accuracy, speed and cost.


A portable future

The fibre optic spectrometer has a major impact on fields well outside of optics. Suddenly, measuring the spectrum of light is no longer something that takes a long time, and no longer needs to be done in the laboratory.