Micro- and Nanophotonic Technologies
Micro- and Nanophotonic Technologies
An Overview of Micro- and Nanophotonic Science and Technology
David L. Andrews
University of East Anglia, School of Chemistry, Norwich Research Park, Norwich NR4 7TJ, UK
1 Global Scale of the Subject
The widely ranging subject of micro- and nanophotonics represents a spectrum of one of the most exciting, rapidly progressing areas of modern science and technology. It has the unusual distinction of exhibiting rapid, almost neck and neck pace in the developments of both its fundamental scientific basis, and in market-ready applications, where sustained progress in the miniaturization and integration of optical components has already led micro- and nanophotonic technologies into a remarkably prominent position in the commercial market. As miniature lasers and microfabrication methods have continually evolved, parallel growth in the optical fiber industry has helped spur the continued push towards the long-sought goal of total integration in optical devices.
This is a sector in which further, much more rapid commercialization can be expected to take place over the next decade and beyond. There is already a much more widely dawning recognition of the true significance of this field: it has become a global phenomenon, as indeed befits its widely-vaunted promise for tangible societal impact. Although it is hard to draw the line and obtain broken-down figures for the micro- and nanophotonic technologies per se , it is realistic to suppose that they already account for a significant fraction of a worldwide photonics enterprise that generates over 500 billion dollars of annual trade, and which accounts for employment figures of around 2.3 million individuals (2015 figures, data from SPIE) .
It has often been remarked that the present century will become - if it is not already - one in which light and photonics will supplant electricity and electronics as the pre-eminent influences transforming modern society. Indeed this is entirely fitting; it seems that the term "photonics" was originally coined with just such a vision in mind . So, whilst scientific advances still race on in fields including quantum optics, cavity photonics, nonlinear optics, plasmonics and metamaterials, we can identify applications already heading into market in the form of solid-state lighting and displays, optical interconnect technology, electronic chips and physical platforms for quantum computing, materials for solar energy capture, methodologies for bio-imaging, surface processing, optical manipulation, and many more.
At the heart of all this activity are physical systems that can exploit forms of optical interaction whose nature is substantially modified - and in some cases almost entirely determined - by microscopic and nanoscale features. Over these length scales the whole character of optical propagation, transmission and measurement will often involve an intricate interplay of structural, spectroscopic, electromagnetic, electronic, and ultimately quantum optical features. In fact, a great deal of the subject matter that nowadays features under the generic heading "photonics" is directly associated with technologies of micro- or nano-scale dimensions, whose growth in importance links with the inexorable drive to greater and greater miniaturization. A case can be made that this is what most clearly distinguishes photonics in general from the rest of modern optics: the realm of electromagnetic phenomena over micro- and nanoscale dimensions is a realm within which optics often needs to be described in terms of photon (or plasmon/polariton) interactions. We shall return to look more closely at characteristics of the physics in Section 3.
A broad range of technological advances enables new opportunities to be recognized and exploited. In this highly interdisciplinary field, two main forms of materials innovation drive forward the research and deve