The EM perspective
The United Nations declared May 16 as the International Day of Light because it marks the anniversary of the first successful use of laser technology in 1960. But it was actually Albert Einstein who came up with the original concept and the scientific basis behind this technology. In 1917, the Noble Prize winner proposed the process that makes laser possible, called stimulated emission. He theorized that, in addition to spontaneously absorbing and emitting light, electrons could be stimulated to emit light of a particular wavelength. However, it took nearly 40 years before scientists could amplify those emissions, proving Einstein right and making the laser the powerful tool it has become today.
Nowadays, lasers have made their way into everyday life thanks to many applications in various fields. According to a research study by MarketsandMarkets Research, at the end of 2018, their market was valued at more than USD 13 billion.
When it comes to investing in light, there is no need to focus only on laser, as light has multiple applications: from light for life-saving surgical procedures, to horticultural lighting, and even light beyond the visible sensors. Such sensors are key in developing a multitude of technologies. For instance, laser-based ranging systems provide the information needed in autonomous vehicles. All these applications create beneficial impact for the environment and/or the society. They are energy efficient; they help cultivating more food; they support our healthcare system; they make our traffic system safer.
Additionally, natural sun light is also a source of renewable energy. This technology has made incredible progress in terms of efficiency gains to convert light into electricity. The latest records in commercially available photovoltaic panels have reached 22% efficiency. In terms of installed solar energy, the industry has achieved steady growth over the last 15 years.
Another interesting technology that finds its way into many applications is the so-called vertical cavity surface laser emitter or VCSEL. It is a semiconductor laser diode with the laser beam emitting from the top surface, contrary to conventional edge-emitting lasers. The VCSEL today is an established light source that is used in fiber optic data transmission, laser printers, computer mouse, cell phone cameras for autofocus and face recognition (3D sensors) and cars for collision avoidance and eye tracking systems. Some studies show that the VCSEL business should increase tenfold in the next five years and reach USD 5.5 billion by 2025.
Covid-19 has also opened up new investment options as it is driving the development of new disinfection solutions. Ultraviolet (UV) light from LEDs is a particularly promising approach - and a challenging one. UV light has the effect on microorganisms breaking up the chemical bonds in the DNA helix, tearing apart their genetic information. As a result, virus or bacteria are no longer infectious and unable to reproduce. The new UV-C LEDs are much more flexible and smaller than conventional UV-lamps. That gives rise to completely new applications such as mobile disinfection devices. These devices could also be used for disinfecting surfaces in taxis, buses or shared cars. However, strict safety rules have to be applied, since UV-C radiation is not only harmful for germs, but also to our skin and eyes.
In short, we believe that light in all its colors enables promising technologies that are the basis for many new interesting and application-oriented products in clean technologies. The progress since the first invention of the laser beam was tremendous, but the development does not stop here and will continue to offer new opportunities to investors looking for attractive performance while creating a positive impact.