Photonics markets

Photonics products accounted for 20% of the Group’s sales in 2014.

The photonics market covers applications that either emit or detect light.

We segment the photonics market into:

  • Emitters and detectors
  • Infrared
  • Solar (CPV)
  • Lighting 

 

 

Optical interconnects

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Currently, wired data transmission in the home, the office and in data centres is largely undertaken using copper cables. However, data traffic is growing at an explosive rate due to technologies such as high definition imaging, video streaming, “Big Data” and cloud computing. This phenomenon is necessitating a switch from copper wires to optical communication.  This is a natural evolution which mirrors the transformation that has already taken place in the telecoms infrastructure.

Optical interconnects offer significantly higher-speed data transfers over much longer distances than their copper counterparts, and are much more efficient.  Data centres have become major consumers of electrical energy, rivalling traditional heavy industries in terms of the power requirements needed to keep large warehouses full of servers operating and cooled. It is therefore of little surprise that enterprises such as data centres are amongst the first adopters, where optical technology now offers both higher performance and lower overall operating cost compared with copper. A number of contract wins for both production and development contracts were announced during 2014.

Compound semiconductor technology that enables optical interconnects include Vertical Cavity Surface Emitting Lasers (VCSELs). VCSELs are an advanced laser technology geared to mass production and low cost.   IQE is the market and technology leader for VCSEL products, with world record data speeds in excess of 64 Gb/s already demonstrated.

Laser projection

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Conventional projection technologies utilise incandescent or halogen lamps as their light sources. Such devices are power hungry, physically bulky, have relatively short lifetimes and require focusing optics which can limit the image quality and flexibility.  

The emergence of lasers in each of the primary colours (red, green and blue) enables a low cost, high quality laser projection solution which can be miniaturized and does not require focusing optics.  This technology is called pico projection.

Early pico projector technologies utilise LEDs for the light source but the next generation of devices is incorporating miniature laser projection units.

Gesture recognition

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Gesture recognition represents the ability of electronic devices to recognise hand and body gestures and movements in order to control any device.  The advanced properties of compound semiconductor epiwafers are a key component in gesture recognition devices which are expected to appear in many new product launches over the coming years. 

The potential applications for this technology extend far beyond gaming, from medical applications, disability aids, remote controls, to sign language recognition, and more.  In fact, the use of this technology is only limited by human imagination, and has far reaching implications for how we will interface with technology in the near future. It is anticipated that many household appliances will be controlled by gesture.

Solid state lighting (LEDs)

Shutterstock 113063452Light emitting diodes (LEDs) are a high performance, low cost, green alternative to incandescent light bulbs.

Global concerns about climate change and the Earth’s dwindling natural resources continue to be a priority for governments worldwide. Significant new policies and legislation continue to be introduced in the direction of renewable and highly efficient energy devices.

Already, many continents have introduced wide-ranging legislation to progressively ban incandescent lighting. Alternative low energy, compact fluorescent lighting is unpopular because of perceptions of low quality lighting and on-going issues with heavy metal content including mercury.

Solid state lighting is widely viewed as the only credible solution to replace the incandescent light bulb.  Efficient energy consumption will remain a key driver in the development and adoption of this technology, but the critical success factors are reducing cost and improving the ambience of these units.  

High quality gallium nitride on silicon (GaN on Si) provides the route map to achieving this, which will revolutionise residential and commercial lighting around the planet over the coming years.