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Photonics West news: Monday

28 Jan 2003

A round up of the latest news from the technical sessions at Photonics West in San Jose, California.

Biomedical Optics (BIOS 2003):
Delegates at a full session on multiphoton microscopy heard that optical techniques may ultimately be able to perform targeted gene therapy and DNA vaccinations. Karsten König from the University of Jena, Germany, explained how pulses from a femtosecond laser create a tiny hole in a cell membrane through which foreign DNA can then be transferred. Preliminary tests with nanojoule near-infrared pulses and Chinese hamster cells have shown 100% cell survival following the procedure.

Lasers and Applications in Science and Engineering (LASE 2003):
Friedrich Bachmann from Germany-based industrial laser company Rofin-Sinar described the results of a € 40 m program to develop application-adapted diode lasers. The modular diode laser systems (MDS) project, started in July 1998 as a joint venture between 16 industrial partners and 6 institutes in Germany including Jenoptik, Infineon and Bosch. Now in its fourth year, the project has developed a range of laser systems of varying geometry and performance to suit applications such as soft soldering, line and ring focus generation, and laser hardening.

Integrated Optoelectronic Devices (OPTO 2003):
It what was heralded as a breakthrough in laser science, a Swiss team announced room temperature operation of a continuous wave quantum cascade laser. Scientists from the University of Neuchâtel, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and the Federal Institute of Technology reported output powers in excess of 10 mW at 292 K and 2 mW at 312 K for a Fabry-Perot type device. The collaboration says that a number of factors contributed to the success including the use of a buried heterostructure design to reduce thermal stress and PbTe/ZnSe-based facet coatings to guarantee low threshold currents. The team is now developing singlemode distributed feedback lasers based on the same fabrication process.

Micromaching and Microfabrication (MF 2003):
The development of appropriate packaging and encapsulation technologies is vital if MEMS and MOEMS-based devices are to successfully penetrate the biomedical and telecoms markets, according to Khalil Najafi from the University of Michigan. In a packed plenary talk, Najafi told delegates that carefully designed wafer-level packaging solutions are crucial for making low-cost reliable microsystems.

Laser market in 2003:
Across the road from Photonics West at the Fairmont Hotel, attendees at Penwell's "Lasers and Optoelectronics Marketplace Seminar" heard that the global laser market is forecast to grow 12% in 2003 to reach USD 4.8 bn. Sales of diode and nondiode-based products are predicted to rise 17% and 6% respectively.

Oliver Graydon is editor of Optics.org and Opto & Laser Europe magazine.

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