Beginning to see the light

Jason Ford

News Editor

This week’s briefing has excellent news for those of you working in photonics, namely that your industry is expected to be worth $243bn by 2021.

This upbeat prediction comes from the organisers of Photon10, a conference taking place at Southampton University that is expected to attract over 400 international optics and photonics experts.

Organised by the Institute of Physics and the UK Consortium for Photonics and Optics (UKCPO), the conference will showcase the latest developments in so-called ‘green photonics’ that are core to an impressive range of technologies.

They include technology that affords more efficient electrical energy conversion from renewable sources, to advances in consumer technology for energy-efficient home lighting and television screens.

Fred Quan, president of the US Optoelectronics Development Association (OIDA), opens the conference today, and will discuss the latest advances in photonics in relation to ‘the twin threats of rising carbon dioxide content in our atmosphere and the rising cost of energy’.

While the photonics industry looks forward with optimism, the Royal Navy appears to have been struck amidships by underfunding, a situation likely to undermine its remit of ‘upholding the principles of national security with conventional deterrence.’

This dire warning comes from a Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) report published today entitled ’Why Things Don’t Happen: Silent Principles of National Security’.

The report says that past underfunding and current financial pressures will leave the future Royal Navy fleet ageing, fewer in number and ’inadequate for the most fundamental, enduring and vital tasks’.

In Afghanistan, British troops are set to benefit from a delivery of upgraded Desert Hawks, the hand-launched, remote controlled surveillance aircraft that can be read about in greater detail by clicking here.

The latest version of Desert Hawk – bought as part of a £3m Urgent Operational Requirement – is claimed to be virtually undetectable once it is in the air, and is capable of recording day and night, sending video directly to troops on the ground.

A new wing design means it can fly for 90 minutes over a nine-mile range.

Still overseas and news that NASA is this week expecting the arrival of the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) to the Kennedy Space Center on board a US Air Force C-5 aircraft.

AMS is a particle physics detector constructed, tested, and operated by an international team from 16 countries.

It is scheduled to launch to the International Space Station on board Space Shuttle Endeavour mission STS-134 in 2011.