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What Does a Photonics Engineer Do?

By Jay Leone
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The subject of photonics covers the technical applications of light. Photonics play a critical role in the production of countless products such as barcode scanners, television remote controls, and laser leveling devices. A photonics engineer works closely with photonics on concepts involving the generation, transmission, amplification, and detection of light.

Many inventors in history have studied the field of photonics. The invention of lasers — photonics devices that generate the light in most fiber optics systems — essentially marked the beginning of widespread interest in photonics in the early 1960s, while laser diodes further promoted photonics inventions through the 1970s. Information-transmitting optical fibers that form the infrastructure of the Internet revolutionized the telecommunications industry in the late twentieth century. Photonics engineers have been the major researchers in the development and application of these technologies.

Fiber optics technology involves transmitting light and information through thin glass fibers; a great deal of information can be transmitted quickly using fiber optics. Many photonics engineers work with fiber optics producers because these systems are in such widespread use across the globe. High-volume telecommunications firms as well as fiber optics manufacturing companies are the largest photonics engineer employers. Certain photonics engineers are employed strictly to refine optical fiber purity, because impure optical fibers can be very inefficient and contribute to energy loss.

A photonics engineer may be employed by a firm that designs or tests photonics components and systems. These engineers may also be in charge of developing optical image products and signal process technologies, and analyzing photonics systems performance. Many photonics engineers develop and perform tests to optimize current photonics systems as well as to conduct research into newer, more advanced photonics technologies for future applications.

Several tools are used by photonics engineers on a regular basis. A photonics engineer may have to work closely with different types of lasers, such as tunable diode lasers, tunable dye lasers, and argon-ion lasers. Electron microscopes as well as several different types of fluorescent microscopes including deconvolution fluorescent microscopes, confocal microscopes, and total internal reflection fluorescent microscopes are often utilized by photonics engineers. Other tools often employed by the average photonics engineer include wavelength meters, optical spectrum analyzers, and digital storage oscilloscopes.

Devices developed by photonics engineers play important roles in several major industries. Laser range finding and laser leveling devices can be found on almost any construction site. In the medical industry, lasers are used to perform surgical endoscopy procedures and laser eye surgeries designed to correct poor eyesight. Many companies in the industrial manufacturing industry employ lasers in precision drilling, cutting, and welding applications.

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