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What is Photonics?

Photonics is the science that studies and manipulates the photon; the particle of light. Photonics study the generation of light, the control of light, and the detection of light, which consists of the wide range of wavelength from gamma rays to radio wave. Photons travel at the speed of light and pass through each other with minimal interference for a long distance. Since photons perform many of the functions once performed by electrons, the technology of photonics has a possibility to outperform electronics in the near future.

A book entitled Photonic Technology and Industrial Policy by Ernest Sternberg introduces the definition of “photonics.” The word “photonics” first appeared in an article by Pierre Aigrain in 1973. Aigrain wrote that “in the present sense,” “that tomorrow, that is to say in 1990, photonics will play an important part in the transmission of information … Photonics is a technology of tomorrow." "The word Photonics begins to appear in print in English around 1981 in press releases and annual reports of Bell Laboratories in internal publications of Hughes Aircraft Corp. and in the more general press in an article in the Wall Street Journal. …” Aigrain also said “Photonics encompasses the generation of light, the detection of light, the management of light through guidance, manipulation, and amplification, and most importantly, its utilization for the benefit of mankind.”

Photonics has been actively studied in the world during the 21st century. The technology of photonics is directly involved in our life, such as communication, manufacturing industry, biotechnology, healthcare, and more. In 2015, the International Year of Light 2015 was established to learn about photonics and understand its impact on the world.

Resource: - Ernest Sternberg, “Photonic Technology and Industrial Policy: U.S. Responses to Technological Change” - "What is Photonics” in the webpage of the International Year of Light 2015

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