What is photonics?
Photonics is the area of physics that deals with everything to do with light. From the remote controls of your TV to the optical fibres leading to your broadband, photonics technology can be found all around us and is an integral part of our everyday lives.
Photonics engineers are advancing the field and are finding new ways to harness the power of light to make living in modern society more comfortable and efficient.
Becoming a photonics engineer
Studying physics is a great way to start a career in photonics. As the subject considers how light interacts with different materials, a physics degree will provide you with a firm footing in the discipline and help you understand the most important theories linked to the field.
When you are submitting your application, it is recommended to check whether your chosen course has modules that are connected to photonics.
Once you have completed your qualification, you may opt to do a postgraduate qualification that specialises in photonics or one of its disciplines. For example, universities offer master’s courses linked specifically to optoelectronics and laser technologies. There are also photonics apprenticeships currently in development.
What do photonics engineers do?
As a photonics engineer, you can work in a variety of industries depending on your area of interest.
From working for a construction company that uses lasers to survey a particular area to being employed by a manufacturing firm to design solar panels, photonics engineers are in demand across a range of sectors.
Wherever you end up working, your primary role will be to help develop, improve and use devices and systems that contain photonics technology.
If you are employed by a manufacturing firm, your workplace will most likely be a lab. As part of your day-to-day tasks, you will be involved with doing research on existing photonics systems to help you design better alternatives.
In addition to being heavily involved in the design and creation of these products, you will also need to write reports for your supervisors so that senior staff can track the progress being made.
But what kind of firms do photonics engineers work for?
Certain medical companies need photonics engineers to design some of their equipment. For example, some of the tools employed in surgery use photonics technology to improve the accuracy of medical procedures.
With the rise of optical fibres in communication technology, telecommunications companies require photonics engineers to create optical cables that allow the delivery of high-speed internet services to their customers.
Solar power is one of the fastest growing areas of the energy sector. Since it uses light to generate electricity, photonics engineers play an integral part in developing the technology further and improving its efficiency.
What skills do photonics engineers need to have?
As you are working in developing photonics technology, you must have excellent problem-solving skills, in addition to being comfortable with working with complex mathematical equations and theories. A physics degree will help you master these traits, thus putting you in a good position to succeed in the role.
As well as being good at science and maths, you need to be innovative and creative too. Photonics engineers design some of the latest technology in the discipline, for which you need to have an open mind and let your imagination guide your work.
Designing photonics technology may become a tedious progress and sometimes you may not get the desired results. This may tempt you to give up and do something else. However, you need to remain patient and persistent, as the solution will come if you keep trying and take things step-by-step.
Photonics is a diverse discipline found in a wide range of sectors, offering physicists the chance to work in different industries that rely on photonics engineers for their success.