Photonics is the physical science of light (photon) generation, detection, and manipulation through emission, transmission, modulation, signal processing, switching, amplification, and sensing. Though covering all light’s technical applications over the whole spectrum, most photonic applications are in the range of visible and near-infrared light.
Photonic systems provide many desirable properties such as wide bandwidth, small size, low weight, and EMI immunity. We are currently undergoing photonics revolution which has vision of generating and harnessing photons for real-time, high-resolution, wide area persistent day/night surveillance, missile imaging and tracking, biological and chemical Sensing, optical networks, high-bandwidth free-space communication, and information processing.
For example, Free Space Optical or Laser communications is creating a new communications revolution, that by using visible and infrared light instead of radio waves for data transmission is providing large bandwidth, high data rate, license free spectrum, easy and quick deployability, low mass and less power requirement. So Laser communication systems are being planned from terrestrial short-range systems, to high data rate Aircraft and Satellite communications, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to high altitude platforms (HAPs), near-space communications, relaying high data rates from moon, and deep space communications from mars. Optical communications minimize the probability of interception, jamming, and detection, while dramatically minimizing the power needed.
Thermal Imaging are playing vital role in warfare due to their high resolution and covert passive operation. Infrared imaging enables the spotting of targets, intruders and hidden bombs by detecting their heat signatures thereby protecting troops. The performance of Night vision devices is constantly being improved while driving down the size, weight and power consumption in order to maintain an edge over adversaries. Infrared photodetectors (IRPDs) have become important devices in various applications such as night vision, military missile tracking, medical imaging, industry defect imaging, and environmental sensing. Mature semiconductor technologies such as mercury cadmium telluride and III–V material-based photodetectors have been dominating the industry.
Along with these technologies laser directed energy weapons have also been enabled and which have given rise to new warfare called Optronic Warfare. Nanotechnology is also enhancing Photonics. For instance, Graphene based photodetectors can detect the entire spectrum, from infrared to visible to ultraviolet and in future would lead to ultrasensitive detectors and that too at room temperature. The future infrared sensors shall become small enough to embed in smartphones, rifle sights or eyeglasses and affordable enough to purchase for every soldier.
Photonics has played a key role through the development of small, inexpensive, high data rate transceivers to transport the large data streams in Digital Beam Forming (DBF) architectures for phased array antennas, or “Digital Arrays”. Photonic techniques, given their inherently wide bandwidth are also enabling Next Generation Radars and Electronic warfare receivers with wide frequency coverage and wide instantaneous bandwidths. Enhanced frequency coverage enables multi-frequency radars that are more capable and less detectable.
Another important system has been LIDAR, one of whose application is CBRN detection. The Joint Biological Stand-off Detection System (JBSDS), a light detection and ranging (lidar)-based system is designed to detect aerosol clouds out to 5 kilometers (km) in a 180-degree arc and to discriminate clouds with biological content from clouds without biological material at distances of 1 to 3 km or more. Photonic neural networks have the potential to revolutionize the speed, energy efficiency and throughput of modern computing—and to give Moore’s law–style scaling a new lease on life.
Photonics is still in its infancy in India generating approximately $500 million every year. But thanks to a mushrooming telecommunications sector, many believe that photonics will play a vital role in India’s future development. “Optical communication is an area that is going to drive the Indian economy,” said professor Perumal Ramamurthy, director of the National Centre for Ultrafast Processes at the University of Madras in Chennai, India. “With its huge population, India has massive potential for extensive growth in this sector for both general communication as well as broadband Internet.”
As seen elsewhere in the photonics industry, biomedical optics, particularly microscopy, endoscopy and skin treatment, as well as photovoltaics are all major areas in India’s growing photonics map. Optical computing, defense, new materials for sensors and devices
are also sectors to watch in the country.
On the whole, India’s pho – tonics companies are clustered around universities and research institutes, which are in Bangalore, Cochin and Hyderabad, all in southern India. With only about 24 photonics companies in the country, employing about 200 engineers and between 800 and 1000 technicians/ operators, jobs still are limited in the industry.
Arguably the biggest home-grown photonics players are SFO Technologies of Cochin, Sterlite Optical Technologies Ltd. Of Pune, Tejas Networks India Ltd. And Optocircuits India) Ltd., both of Bangalore, and Kwality Photonics Pvt. Ltd. Of Hyderabad. These companies, as well as India’s industry as a whole, benefit from proximity to important Indian Ocean trade routes, providing vital links to Africa, East Asia, Europe and the Americas.
SFO Technologies, part of the NeST Group, operates in software development, hardware manufacturing optoelectronics fiber optics and broadband solutions Dr. Suresh Nair, chief technology officer for the NeST Group and executive council member of the Optical Society
of India (OSI), attributes the company’s success to the high-level tech -nical skill of its staff and to its ability to communicate in English.
Vijaya Kumar Gupta Kopuri, managing director of LED manufacturer Kwality Photonics, agrees. “India offers a huge market as well as a massive workforce, both at the factory floor and engineering level. This is a great advantage for Indian firms.” Besides the country’s domestic companies, India is home to the design centers of global companies such as US giant IPG Photonics Corp. of Oxford, Mass., the French-formed Alcatel- Lucent, Honeywell, Cisco, Cienna, Tyco Electronics and Alphion, to name a few.
Nair said that the attractions for foreign companies are government subsidies and low interest rates. The government also recently stipulated that a minimum 40 percent of system contribution must come from local sources, which means that many industry giants are keen to partner with local photonics companies.
There are only a handful of universities and institutes that specialize in optics and photonics research, and the limited job opportunities have had a secondary effect on these academic centers, which often find that attracting photonics students can be a problem. “We find that not many students are coming forward to enroll in photonics courses, compared with other courses, because there aren’t enough industrial openings available in the country,” Ramamurthy said. “Students prefer to pursue higher education within the country or go abroad looking for work.”
But Reji Philip, assistant professor at the Raman Research Institute, disagrees. “We don’t find any particular difficulty in attracting students into the optics/photonics stream. In the doctoral program at the Raman Research Institute, we currently have around 20 percent enrolled in the Light and Matter Physics Group.” OSI was formed in 1965 in a bid to promote photonics in the country. The society organizes regular national conferences and publishes the Journal of Optics, which enjoys a wide circulation in India.
The Photonics Society of India was formed more recently, in 2000. Its main objective is to create a network of researchers, scientists, educators and industrialists who are interested in taking part in photonicsrelated programs in the country. Most of its committee members
are made up of scientists at India’s leading research institutes and national laboratories, including the Raman Research Institute and the International School of Photonics at Cochin University of Science and Technology. For the most part, the photonics industry receives minimum support from the Indian government. “The Department of Information Technology supports industries as well as academic institutes by sponsoring projects in thrust areas, but there is no special consideration for photonics industries,” Nair said.
Recently, however, the government recognized the potential of optical communication and reduced some of its controls on foreign trade and investment. By permitting higher limits on foreign direct investment in a few key areas, such as telecommunications, the government has helped strengthen this sector.
A major challenge facing Indian photonics companies is competing with Chinese vendors, who often undercut Indian manufacturers. “Many fiber components are imported from China with no duty – the product descriptions are carefully worded so as to avoid this tax – and they are dumped on the local market,” Nair said. “While Indian component manufacturers provide highquality goods, the customers or installers will often look for the lowest quote. There are even instances where you purchase two couplers, and another one is given free of charge just in case one fails.” Another issue, Nair said, is Chinese companies, such as Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. Of Shenzhen, that participate in Indian government tenders. Indian counterparts cannot match the cost competency.
Quality does not seem to be the issue for Indian photonics. Many of the country’s designs and products are privately labeled and can be found in telecommunications, health care and other industries around the globe. For example, SFO Technologies’ fiber distribution
systems for multidwelling units are now being used by US broadband and telecommunications specialist Verizon.
According to Kwality Photonics’ Kopuri, the country appears to be on the verge of a photonics explosion. Despite entering the LED industry early in the 1970s, India has yet to see large-scale manufacturing or a proliferation of entrepreneurs in the field. But this may all be about to change. I predict sizable investments to be made in LED chip and LED packaging lines in anticipation of exploding demand in India for LED-based lamps,” he said. “Kwality Photonics is ready to partner with forwardlooking technology firms to produce 120- lumen-per-watt LEDs.”
But the photonics industry in India has a long way to go before it reaches its peak. A bottleneck in its growth is the limited component and material base. This makes the industry reliant on foreign sources. To ensure the industry’s success, Ramamurthy believes that huge investments are required. The Raman Research Institute’s Philip agrees. “I don’t foresee any quantum jump in industry revenues in the near future. To ensure success, the foreign export component first needs to be strengthened.”
Indian Photonics market
The Global market for India Photonics Market is estimated to reach $70.04million by 2025, growing at a CAGR of 7.9% from 2020 to 2025. Photonics is a technology of generating and harnessing light and other forms of energy through photons. The demand of photonics technology in various fields like aerospace technology, healthcare, environmental technology and others are projected to propel the significant growth of the India Photonics Market.
By type the India Photonics Market is segmented into Photovoltaics, Biophotonics, Displays, optical components and others. Optical components are witnessing a significant growth in the market owing to the wade use of optical fibers for communications in the field of telecommunications. Fiber optic cables carry information between two places using only light-based technology. A single fiber optic cable is responsible for several million calls across the globe. Apart from telecommunication industry, optical fibers had large applications in medical sector as it is used for light guides, imaging tools and others. Traditional copper cables are replaced by optical fibers owing to their large bandwidth and improved data communication speed over large distances. Furthermore, fiber optics is used as hydrophones foe seismic and SONAR, aircrafts, submarines and other underwater applications aiding the growth of the market.
By End Users the market is segmented into Telecommunications, Consumer Electronics, Energy sector, Automotive, Industrial and others. Consumer Electronics is dominating the market. The growing use of photonics in sensors, solar power LED street lighting, mobile home theater headset and others are aiding the growth of photonics in consumer electronics. Photonics are used in manufacturing of high resolution flat-panel displays and cameras along with smart phones, television and others.
The rise in use of LASER technologies in healthcare sector along with rise in applications of fiber optics in telecommunication sector, media & broadcasting, military and defense and others are driving the growth of the market. Use of laser technology in most of the healthcare centers for cancer monitoring is one of the factors driving the growth of the India Photonics market. Use of photonics in Indian market for cost-effective cancer screening, green-house gas monitoring, water management and others are boosting the growth of India Photonics Market. Use of Photonics technology in healthcare is one of the major applications inthe market owing to the rise in use of LASER treatment technology in Urology, oncology, dermatology and other treatments are boosting the growth of the market.
In India, rise in demand of fast internet along with internet penetration by various companies has resulted in deployment of optical fiber owing to its bandwidth and communications thereby fueling the growth of the market in India. Companies are focusing on innovations in laser technologies for manufacturing of these sophisticated and high resolution devices using these technologies. In the recent days ultrafast lasers are used to provide these facilities in manufacturing. The leading LED technology revolutions are also influencing the market growth. Furthermore, the developments of organic LEDs and active –matrix organic LEDs offer superior overall image quality , power efficiency and weight at lower manufacturing costs. These factors are propelling the significant growth of the market.
Challenges – India Photonics Market
Cost of Fiber optics components is expensive: