New section to chart optoelectronics technologies

Sept. 1, 2003
Few doubt the increasing importance of optoelectronics technology in military and aerospace systems.

By John Keller, chief editor
Military & Aerospace Electronics

Few doubt the increasing importance of optoelectronics technology in military and aerospace systems. This design approach, which seeks to blend optical and electronic components and subsystems on the same platform, offers solutions for nagging engineering issues ranging from bandwidth to cooling.

It is for these and many other reasons that this issue of Military & Aerospace Electronics launches a new news department called Optoelectronics Watch, which will be a showcase of news stories and briefings that center on how optoelectronics technology is coming to bear on military, space, and commercial aviation.

This new department, which typically will appear on pages 4, 5, or 6 of each monthly issue of Military & Aerospace Electronics, replaces the familiar Design Watch section.

The new Optoelectronic Watch department will discuss issues such as image processing, optical sensors, lasers, optical lenses, fiber optics, and how these technologies lend themselves to military and aerospace systems to increase data processing and throughput, resist electromagnetic interference, and safeguard digital data from unauthorized eavesdroppers. This section will also highlight influential optoelectronics products, case studies, standards, and design tradeoffs.

The new section certainly does not herald a revolution in optoelectronics technology where military and aerospace applications are concerned, for we understand that the transition from electronic to optical technology is deliberate and evolutionary. Many of the reasons for launching Optoelectronics Watch are to chart this evolution and to put new developments into the right perspective.

In so doing, the Optoelectronics Watch section will consider technologies involving digital electronics, RF and microwaves, as well as optics to highlight the hot technologies, design approaches, and products, and how they fit into the evolving optoelectronics picture.

This month, for example, Optoelectronics Watch features a story by Contributing Editor J.R. Wilson on the status of laser communications, and a story about optical transceivers for the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program. The section also has news briefs on optical sensors for the U.S. Army Objective Force Warrior advanced demonstration program, a 2-gigabit-per-second Fibre Channel network interface controller for flight-critical military applications, and a new micro infrared camera.

The potential benefits of optoelectronics in military and aerospace applications continue to multiply. In addition to its other stated advantages, optoelectronics may help designers with an increasingly troublesome problem in tightly packed electronic systems — cooling.

Defense electronics continue to increase in functionality, yet decrease in size and weight, as designers find new ways to shrink electronic components and package them in ever-tightening configurations on chips and circuit boards. At this rate, experts are pointing out that the ability to cool electronics — particularly in ruggedized systems — is falling behind packaging approaches.

An increase in the use of optoelectronic components offers alternative cooling approaches to electronics with its own set of advantages. While electronic systems most typically employ conduction cooling with heat sinks or conductive cooling with forced air or liquid, optoelectronics can use thermoelectric cooling as another option.

The Optoelectronics Watch section in Military & Aerospace Electronics will delve deeply into those and many other issues every month. Those who would like to contribute materials or ideas for this section, please contact John Keller by phone at 603-891-9117, or by e-mail at [email protected].

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