If you’ve been following the IEEE’s conference schedule this year and last, you know that nanophotonics is a hot topic. As nanotechnologies explode in growth, we see the implications across industries—including the future of photonics. Read on for our deep dive.
The study of nanophotonics goes as far back as the 1960s after laser and fiber optics were invented. As a branch of nanotechnology and photonics, this study and its subsequent innovations look at the behavior of light at the nanoscale.
It wasn’t until more recently, however (2012), that nanotechnology and nanodevices were integrated into more mainstream technology. In this case, IBM’s silicon nanophotonics technology became the first to integrate electrical and optical components onto a computer chip. This invention is arguably a turning point for the current state and future of nanophotonics.
Overall, these devices have the potential to “replace conventional bulky optical components in a company manner” — something that will have far-reaching implications across industries.
Optoelectronics and Nanotechnology
One of the most common examples of the nanostructure is semiconductor devices. Due to their small size, they have extremely interdependent optical, electronic, structural, mechanical, and thermal properties. However, as these devices and the tech advance (specifically nanowires), it stands to reason that optoelectronics will advance alongside them.
For optoelectronics, the miniaturization process has implications on every level of a component’s manufacturing and, ultimately, its functionality. Devices that use these optical components that are now created to function on the nanoscale require unparalleled precision in all process steps. With the growing industry, nanomaterials are now “in everything from optical coatings on lenses to photodetectors, light polarizers, and many more.”
As a result, many optical components—specifically those in electronic devices—need highly conductive materials. And nanomaterials, as a rule, can better manipulate, reflect, and absorb light. In addition, the strong light-matter interactions with nanotechnical devices mean more efficient interaction with light, broad optical response, and fast relaxation times.
In essence, nanophotonics offers incredible possibilities across industries.
Implications of Nanophotonics Across Industries
Perhaps some of the most interesting advancements in this subsect will likely come from the integrations of nano metals and semiconductors. That said, the miniaturization of matter in this way can be applied to more than electronic advancements ranging from photonic computing to medicine. At Photo Solutions, we’re proud to serve clients in these innovative and evolving industries and meet the needs of new technologies and methods.
Most of our systems rely on computers in this digital age. As of recently, these electronics were silicon-based. However, nanophotonic and semiconductor advancements have made it so photonic computing (with photonic chips) replaces traditional silicon. On the nanoscale, these components include things like ring resonators.
Although currently integrated into high-capacity data centers, photonic technology with silicon chips allowsfor higher-speed processing cores and increased efficiency. Other photonic computing advancements include nanowires for stronger light-matter computation and metamaterials used for chip-based optical integrated circuits.
For solar cell integrations, metallic nanoparticles are used to enhance light collection. With the addition of nanowires, light management can also be improved. In addition to this increased efficiency, nanophotonics in solar cells are relatively cheaper than their counterparts and have a stronger absorption capacity. The resulting solar cell devices are more accurate and impact electromagnetic advancements.
Regarding biosensing, nanophotonic devices have enhanced light-matter interactions, allowing them to push past the current limitations in this field. Furthermore, with nanostructures and on-chip optoelectronic integration, biosensing can achieve improved performance and added capabilities.
Biosensors are vital in healthcare, food safety, environmental monitoring, and forensics. With optimized performance from nanophotonics, these sensors can use evanescent field-based sensing to respond more quickly to needs in these industries and even save lives.
Perhaps the most critical application of this emerging technology is in medical devices. For example, nanophotonics-based biosensors can be applied to portable devices for patient diagnostics. These point-of-care devices would be relatively inexpensive, deliver accurate diagnoses quickly, and improve overall healthcare efficiency.
With “plasmonic sensors” in place, these devices could help those with previously difficult access to care or those in remote or underserved areas.
What Does This Mean For The Future of Photonics?
Optoelectronic devices (specifically semiconductors) can perform more efficiently on the nanoscale, with faster control of light and a good far-field resolution. As a result, photonic components are applied in electronic devices across industries.
Although these bulk semiconductors are the “backbone of modern electronics and computing,” the material is a less efficient light emitter and turns any added energy to heat. With nanophotonic components, electronic engineers can replace traditional silicon with nanotechnology. Once this practice is more widely accepted, the innovations will change the relationship between photonics and electronics. But as discussed above, these applications don’t end with electronics.
As nanotechnology grows, it’s predicted to impact daily life, from light-activated medicines to flexible display screens. Without the limitation of electrons’ speed, we predict our clients’ innovations will continue to expand with this emerging technology.
Photo Solutions Is Keeping Up With Nanophotonics And More
Since the beginning, our team of optoelectronic engineers and experts has kept up to date with the latest in industry news and advancements. We view nanophotonics and its related tech as one of those innovative advancements that have the potential to change entire industries. And we’re ready to meet our client’s changing needs with custom photonic products.