Increasingly, photonic devices fulfil core functions in equipment and systems. Especially the medical industry and the sector machine building have taken the lead in implementing applications of photonic devices. The ICT and communications sector are also very active. In the meantime it has become apparent that also the sectors water, environment, lighting and many other sectors are boosting photonic functionalities.

Markets (pull)

Photonic devices find their way to a large number of end markets (see figure 3). Functions like measuring, detecting and analysing are frequently used in the medical sector, the sectors water and environment, defence and machine building. Additionally, light is used as a fabricating technology in manufacturing processes. Examples are hardening, patternising and heating of materials. In the medical sector, light sources are applied for the treatment of skin disorders. Light sources are also used for ambient lighting using different colours..


Taking into account the expected growth potential, the following markets are expected to boost the demand for photonic devices and the extension of functionality: medical, water and environment, energy, ICT & communications, home automation (domotics) & lighting, machine building and defence & security.



Figure 3: Importance (X-axis), growth expectation (Y-as) and market size (dot size) of various market segments
as indicated by the respondents of the Berenschot questionnaire.

Figure 3: Importance (X-axis), growth expectation (Y-as) and market size (dot size) of various market segments as indicated by the respondents of the Berenschot questionnaire.



The medical sector has taken the initiative in new developments for photonics (see figure 4). Photonics technology is used in medical applications for diagnostics as well as treatment (cure en care). Diagnostics make use of the fact that an object (tissue, cells, proteins) affects light enabling the taking of measurements. Treatments are based on light which is affecting objects and is leading to recovery.


Examples of photonics in medical applications are human tissue quality monitoring, the camera pill for internal stomach and intestine diagnostics and the treatment of skin diseases for which different wavelengths each have a specific influence on the healing process.


In addition, also the visual presentation of measurement data by means of displays and holography is becoming increasingly important. The number of hand-held tools for self applicated therapy and self diagnosis is increasing. That is also true for non-invasive applications. This all leads to cost reduction in the medical sector.


The medical market is the largest end-market for photonic devices in terms of importance as well as growth potential. The Netherlands has strong university groups having good connections with hospitals. The Dutch photonics chain involving knowledge, skills and business is well developed.


In the medical industry, the time-to-market from ‘idea to product’ is at least 10 years. For ‘in vivo’ applications (compared to ‘in vitro’ applications) this is usually even longer. Points of interest are sterility of products and liability issues. An important photonic device in this respect is the laser. The market size for lasers for medical applications will, by the year 2020, have grown to more than 1 billion dollars. A significant growth is expected for blue as well as UV lasers. At present, a limited number of 50 different kinds of lasers are used for over 10.000 different kinds of treatments. New lighting methods are being developed for the creation of new applications.


As a spin-off from the medical market, also the wellness and the cosmetics market are gaining more attention. These areas are developing into key areas for photonic devices. New applications require new kinds of lasers. There is a demand for pulse lasers, tuneable lasers, modular systems and light sources, wave conductors (broad spectrum) and detectors for ‘new’ wavelength areas (λ = 2900-10600, specifically 6000 - 6500 nm).



Figure 4: Turnover of lasers in the medical sector (source: Michael Lebby, Sources: OIDA, OIDA Members, Siemens, GE Medical Wintergreen, Pennwell).


Water and environment 

There is a worldwide growing water problem. Only 1% of the water on earth is suitable as drinking water for humans or suitable for crops and animals. As a result, the quality of drinking water is a growing point of attention and an interesting application market for photonic devices. Key is the control of the water quality by quality measurements, the determination of water properties as well as the processing of waste water.

An overview of water treatment by means of light is shown in figure 5. UV-light can be used for water purification and disinfection. Similarly, photonic devices can be used in the environmental sector, in particular for securing quality and for controlling chemical processes. Examples are fertilising farmland and crops, measuring the distribution of fertilisers, gas emission measurements and the regulation of various processes. Measuring and regulating by using the proper measuring sensors and light sources positively affect quality. This requires UV light sources, detectors and optical gratings for various wavelengths. Although these markets are smaller than the medical market they have a large potential because of their key importance.


Figure 5: Survey of light sources with different wavelengths for quality improvement of water (source: Adam Donnellan, Director Technical Sales, UV Products, Siemens (water treatment); as presented at the OIDA Green Photonics workshop September 2008).



Photonic devices in the energy sector are mainly related to energy saving. Solar energy, although an important growth market for photonic devices, has been left out in this roadmap investigation for it has a significant focus of attention by itself. Photonic devices are being used to measure energy processes but also as low energy light sources (low energy light sources will be covered in the home automation & lighting section). Furthermore, they are applied to make manufacturing processes more energy efficient, e.g. by improving combustion processes using sensitive, fast detectors.


An example of the measuring of energy processes is the contactless monitoring of energy consumption in electrical networks. That happens by carrying out optical measurements in the high voltage field. This allows predictions to be made when short-circuits may occur due to the overload of the network, enabling corrective actions to be made such as the shutdown of parts of the network. Interference-free control of power networks and the use of photonic devices in smart grids for measuring and controlling network capacity are additional application examples.


Energy saving is also realised in photonic devices themselves. The availability of broadband communication (which enables working at home as well as remote (health) care) contributes indirectly to the reduction of energy consumption. Attention areas for the future are low energy photonic devices and low power networks. Photonic devices will also play a growing role in measuring energy consumption.


ICT and communications 

In the ICT and communications sector photonic devices are increasingly used for signal processing and transporting, processing and visualising large amounts of data. Speed and bandwidth are the main drives for use of photonic devices. Transmitter and receiver modules are utilised at increasingly higher frequencies and larger bandwidths. Apart from computer networks also television networks and telecommunication networks with local as well as regional reach are interconnected. Fibre to the home has started and allows applications at home which require large bandwidth connections. As a result, the demand for computer systems based on photonic signal processing will increase.

Bandwidth is the main theme for this sector. The demand for capacity is expected to grow to 100 Tb/s in 2020. The technological demands are in the field of switchable photonic devices, high speed components, multi wavelength pulse mode modulation as well as non-technological aspects such as mass production and cost reduction. Regarding cost reduction, not only the costs per bit (usage cost) but also device expenses (investments) need to be reduced. Apart from functional developments in this sector, also minimising energy consumption is being addressed.


Home automation & lighting 

Photonic devices have a great future as light sources. There is an increasing need for mood lighting, ambient lighting and tailor-made solutions for colour, usage time, intensity and shape. Apart from quality energy efficiency is leading. Light sources are found in many applications: inside buildings, outside on the streets and in means of transportation, each with their own specific dynamics. This requires comfort, the sense of security and the possibility to adjust and control lighting (the desired kind of lighting at any time and place). LED technology (light emitting diodes) will replace light bulbs which will result in a substantial worldwide energy reduction (see also figure 6). LEDs are more energy efficient than most existing light sources and may realise a power consumption reduced to 50% of the total required volume of light sources. LEDs are easier to switch and control compared to conventional light sources. The use of different wavelengths results is a broad range of applications such as ambient lighting, coloured lighting, switchable colours (colour temperature) and light intensity control. The market size for specialised lighting amounts to several billions of euros. Both mass produced products as well as niche products are potential markets. The challenge remains to cheaply produce light sources which cover a wide range of wavelengths. The Dutch chain of knowledge-knowhow-businesses is strong in this field, although strongly depending on a limited number of players.


Home automation focuses on all sorts of care products such as measuring the motion of people in homes (presence detection), contactless and safe measuring of gasses and smoke and the iris scan at front doors. LEDs, lasers and sensors will be integrated in home automation systems.


Figure 6: Market perspective of LED with respect to other common light sources.


Machine building 

Photonic devices have been in use in machine building for longer periods of time, especially in metrology, precision measurements, measuring material layers and e.g. for colour measurements (light intensity and colour homogeneity). Contactless and wireless measuring has large advantages. Machine building poses increasing demands for higher accuracies for end-products, production processes and quality control. Since machine building involves a wide range of product measuring the usage possibilities of photonic devices show a large diversity. In production processes, products are treated with light. Examples are hardening, drying, patternising, cutting, illuminating and deforming processes. The light intensity, exposure time, spot size and wavelength play a determining role. A wide range of devices is being used.


Defence & security 

In the defence market things are mainly about measurements and analysis. Important examples are detection of explosives and undetected, distant observation of enemy targets. Contactless measuring using light is essential and the detection of roadside bombs is a big challenge. Also signal detection using ray forming devices is a field of attention, fully in line with the development of smart antennas and photonic true time delays. The defence industry is characterised by a high entrance threshold after which usually strong and lasting co-operation relationships are established.

The security sector is comparable to the defence market. Detection of non-safe situations is crucial. Security focuses on safety of humans and objects as well as crime fighting and prevention. Applications are scanners at airports and in larger public spaces. Safety (the ability to safely carry out activities) is characterised by applications such as thermal security, speed limitation and illumination.