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Mar 19, 2019

'India needs to step up research in photonics'

Published Date: 02 Apr, 2015 (5:01 PM)

Roorkee (Uttarakhand), April 2 (IANS) India needs to step up research in photonics, which will help it solve several problems ranging from lack of adequate communications in rural areas to reliable supply of water, says a pioneer in the realm.

Photonics is the marriage of light sciences or photonics with electronics. The entire Internet is based on optical technology and all the heavy lifting of the Internet is through fibres buried in the ground and under the oceans, says David Payne, director of the Optoelectronics Research Centre at the University of Southampton.

An acknowledged leader in the field, Payne says in India it is being looked at in only some pockets. The IITs have done quite a lot of work in photonics, which is growing. But these "pockets of excellence" need to expand. "India has been slow to get on the photonics bandwagon," Payne told IANS at recently concluded IIT-Roorkee's Cognizance festival.

Payne said photonics has the potential to solve many of India's problems. "It has solutions for water, energy, communication to the villages and access to the villages" Payne says, adding that "it's almost essential now to do anything."

If the country has a problem like water leakages from pipes, photonics can help detect such leakages and thus help both conservation and reliable supply.

Research in the field saw hectic developments with the invention of the laser in 1960s and now photonics even encompasses the optical fibres where light or photons carries the information instead of regular wire, where electrons do the work.

India also needs photonics as the country is the world's largest importer of defence products, Payne said. Target designators, range finders or smart weapons, all work with photonics. Photonics also has a role to play in high energy physics, energy generation and nuclear fusion.

"There are fibres on the International Space Station, there are fibres on Mars, there are fibres on the Moon, all doing sensing applications. The latest Moon Rover and Mars Rover are firing lasers on the rocks and examining the plumes for analysing what it is made of. These are some of the examples of the power of optics or photonics," added Payne.

UNESCO has declared the 21st century as the century of light; the last century was the century of electronics which saw massive developments in computers, laptops, microprocessors and software among others, said Payne.

The present centure is expected to see big advancement in photons for communication and computers. "There will be massive lasers for cutting and welding. And creating the conditions at the beginning of the universe can only be done through lasers," he said.

IIT-Roorkee's annual festival Cognizance featured Ajoy Ghatak, contributor to the field of optics and Bishnu Pal, scientist, Photonics Society of India, along with Payne.

The theme of Cognizance was "Photonizing I" which IIT-R interpreted as individual empowerment through the power of light.

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