14 Dec 2022
Analyst company Yole expects growth in communications and sensing to more than offset declines in printing and data storage.
The market for edge-emitting semiconductor lasers (EELs) has been tipped to grow to $7.4 billion by 2027 - more than doubling the 2021 figure of $3.5 billion.
That prediction comes from France-based analyst company Yole Intelligence, which is expecting the largest single application area, optical communications, to continue dominating the sector.
According to the latest report, deployments of EELs in optical communications will grow at a compound annual rate of 15 per cent, reaching a value of $5.6 billion in 2027 - equivalent to around three-quarters of the overall market.
The second-largest application area by value is set to be materials processing, which will grow at the slower compound annual rate of 5 per cent to reach an estimated $674 milion.
Those growth areas, alongside new applications in sensing and displays, will more than offset the anticipated decline of printing and optical data storage applications, once the mainstays of the laser diode market.
That trend was highlighted by printing giant Epson’s recent decision to phase out laser printers, and Yole’s figures indicate that printing and storage applications will represent a market for EELs worth less than $50 million by 2027.
“The semiconductor laser landscape, and especially edge-emitting lasers, is highly fragmented,” says Yole. “Traditional applications cover industrial, telecommunication, scientific, and consumer markets. There are also many niche applications, including for the military and aerospace markets and spectroscopic analysis for the life science market.”
The variety of applications mean that device fabricators have to consider a broad set of technological parameters including wavelength, power output, spectral resolution, beam quality, and optical intensity for specific use cases.
Those technological differences also result in each application area being defined by its own specific supply chain, leading to a highly fragmented and diversified industry.
“Understanding application requirements and evaluating laser parameters is, therefore, key to making the right investment decisions,” added Yole. “This is even more important as EEL prices vary widely depending on design and technical parameters.”
The company says that Fabry-Pérot devices are the most common EEL design in current use, with distributed Bragg reflector (DBR), external-cavity lasers (ECLs), distributed feedback (DFB) lasers, and quantum cascade lasers (QCLs) among the others that are used widely in different applications.
One emerging area could be indium phosphide (InP) EELs for depth sensing modules in smart phones. Because of a longer emission wavelength, such devices could be placed beneath an organic LED display and transmit through it.
Apple is known to be investigating the technology, as it would enable a larger display by reducing the size of the “notch” that houses an iPhone’s front-facing camera and sensor.
Another possibility for InP EELs is lidar, where more relaxed eye safely regulations at longer wavelengths allow greater power to be deployed, helping to improve signal-to-noise performance and achieve a longer sensing range.
• For more details see the latest Yole report entitled “Edge Emitting Lasers: A $7.4B opportunity in 2027 to create integrated photonics platforms targeting multiple applications”.