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Optoelectronics – A Promising Technology

   December 18, 2020

Optoelectronics is a fast-emerging technology dealing with the sourcing, detection, and control of light. The technology has become important in a wide range of applications across various industry verticals owing to features such as enhanced performance and low energy consumption at minimal costs. Consumer electronics, automotive, and IT & telecommunications are among the key sectors driving the growth of the technology. Healthcare is also witnessing increased adoption of optoelectronics technology. The use of optoelectronics technology in applications such as endoscopic biotechnology, medicine & surgery, and ophthalmology has grown significantly in recent years.

Optoelectronics is a sub-field of photonics. The technology involves the design, manufacture, and study of electronic hardware and devices that convert electricity into photonic signals such as X-rays, gamma rays, and infrared, ultraviolet, and visible light. Optoelectronics is a broad field and covers a wide range of devices, such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and elements, information displays, optical storages, remote sensing systems, and optical communication systems.

Meticulous Research® estimates that the optoelectronics market is expected to reach a value of $77.9 billion by 2027. The growth of this market is attributed to the increasing adoption of optical solutions in the healthcare and automotive industries, growing demand for smart consumer electronics devices, and the growing need for durable, low power consuming components. However, high initial costs associated with manufacturing and fabrication are expected to hamper the market’s growth. The market seeks growth opportunities from the proliferation of IIoT solutions, advancements in Li-Fi technology, and innovations in optoelectronic devices.

Optoelectronics is becoming an essential part of advanced technologies. The healthcare and automotive industries have been prominent adopters of optoelectronics in recent years. The use of optical sensors for biosensing applications in the healthcare industry allows for monitoring of the heart rate and facilitates other vital functions such as blood glucose monitoring, urine analysis, and dental diagnosis. As medical components become increasingly complex for more precise diagnosis, optic and optoelectronic image sensors, LEDs, and other components become increasingly sophisticated and less invasive. Thus, the use of non-intrusive, inexpensive sensors across advanced healthcare applications has led to a paradigm change in terms of consumer wellness. Moreover, the increasing demand for advanced technologies in the automotive industry is also creating growth opportunities for the adoption of optoelectronics technology and components. Automotive OEMs integrate infrared (IR) components in vehicles for detecting ambient light, estimating the weather, and enabling gesture-controlled infotainment consoles and night vision. Other new application areas such as interior and exterior automotive lighting and head-up display units are expected to further strengthen the demand for optoelectronic components in the automotive industry.

Rohm Co., Ltd (Japan), Renesas (Japan), Vishay Intertechnology, Inc. (U.S.), Hamamatsu Photonics K.K. (Japan), Osram Licht AG (Germany), ON Semiconductor (U.S.), Cree, Inc. (U.S.), TT Electronics (U.K.), Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd. (South Korea), Sony Corporation (Japan), Panasonic Corporation (Japan), General Electric Company (U.S.), Sharp Corporation (Japan), Broadcom (U.S.), and Texas Instruments (U.S.) are some of the key players operating in the optoelectronics market.

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Key players in the market are focused on developing products and solutions to cater to wider application areas and on strengthening their positions in the market. The players are investing heavily in research & development activities to develop innovative solutions. For instance, the optical sensor portfolio offered by Vishay Intertechnology, Inc. includes reflective, transmissive, and ambient light sensors for consumer, computing, industrial, and automotive applications. Moreover, the ACPL-K70A/K73A high-speed optocoupler offered by Broadcom is a high-gain series coupler that uses LEDs and an integrated high-gain photodetector. It provides an extremely high current transfer ratio between input and output to cater to various applications. The players in the market are also focused on strategic mergers & acquisitions to boost their market shares.

Optoelectronics technology covers various devices such as image sensors, photodiodes, LEDs, laser diodes, solar cells, and optocouplers. A laser diode and LED are similar devices. A laser diode uses a p-n junction to source a highly monochromatic, coherent, and directional light. These devices can provide power levels ranging from a few milliwatts to a few hundred watts with an efficiency of more than 30%. Image sensors are in huge demand for machine vision and other camera applications. CMOS image sensors are used in cameras, spectroscopy, and LiDAR systems, and plasmonic color sensors are used for LED monitoring and colorimetry, among other applications. The demand for LEDs is also expected to grow significantly due to advancements in LED technology and their adoption in various application areas across the residential, commercial, industrial, automotive, and healthcare verticals. Advanced organic LEDs (OLED) offer improved images and low power consumption. They are highly durable and simple in design with ultra-thin, flexible, foldable, and transparent displays.

The outbreak of COVID-19 has had a tremendous impact on the optoelectronics market. The lockdown imposed worldwide led to the shutting down of manufacturing operations and caused disruptions in supply chains and production schedules. Moreover, sales were also affected due to the consumers’ reduced purchasing power, which resulted in the market’s decline. However, the market is expected to gain traction in 2021, with manufacturing facilities resuming operations at full capacity to meet the growing demand for optoelectronics components across various industry verticals.

Advancements in Li-Fi technology that allow data transmission via light sources to overcome challenges faced by the 5G and Wi-Fi technologies are expected to create huge growth prospects for the adoption of optoelectronic components in the coming years. The technology offers interference-free communication where wireless and even cellular signals fail. Moreover, the technology offers greater data security during transmission than Wi-Fi. Also, as Li-Fi technology operates only in the visible light range, potential hackers cannot use Wi-Fi frequency sniffers to hack the data transmissions. These advantages have propelled the adoption of the technology in military, medical, and underwater communication applications. Moreover, consumer electronics devices, advanced communication networks, and digital imaging solutions are also major applications that require high-brightness LEDs (HB-LEDs), CMOS image sensors, fiber-optic laser transmitters, and other optoelectronic components, which indicates that optoelectronics is expected to emerge as an indispensable technology in the coming years.

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