Photonics is the science of light. It is the technology of generating, controlling, and detecting light waves and photons, which are particles of light. The characteristics of the waves and photons can be used to explore the universe, cure diseases, and even to solve crimes. Scientists have been studying light for hundreds of years. The colors of the rainbow are only a small part of the entire light wave range, called the electromagnetic spectrum. Photonics explores a wider variety of wavelengths, from gamma rays to radio, including X-rays, UV and infrared light.
It was only in the 17th century that Sir Isaac Newton showed that white light is made of different colors of light. At the beginning of the 20th century, Max Planck and later Albert Einstein proposed that light was a wave as well as a particle, which was a very controversial theory at the time. How can light be two completely different things at the same time? Experimentation later confirmed this duality in the nature of light. The word Photonics appeared around 1960, when the laser was invented by Theodore Maiman.
Even if we cannot see the entire electromagnetic spectrum, visible and invisible light waves are a part of our everyday life. Photonics is everywhere; in consumer electronics (barcode scanners, DVD players, remote TV control), telecommunications (internet), health (eye surgery, medical instruments), manufacturing industry (laser cutting and machining), defense and security (infrared camera, remote sensing), entertainment (holography, laser shows), etc.
All around the world, scientists, engineers and technicians perform cutting edge research surrounding the field of Photonics. The science of light is also actively taught in classrooms and museums where teachers and educators share their passion for this field to young people and the general public. Photonics opens a world of unknown and far-reaching possibilities limited only by lack of imagination.