Photonics Technology Aids Sustainability

A recently released report from several German trade and research organizations argues that photonic technologies can represent “a driver of global sustainability,” and that the application of these technologies can prevent some 2.92 billion tons of annual CO2 emissions by 2030. Those avoided emissions, according to the study, would “correspond to at least 11% of the agreed target” of carbon reductions needed to cap the total industrial-age increase in global mean temperatures at 1.5 °C, a key goal set by the Paris climate accord of 2015.

The report, “Light as the Key to Global Environment Sustainability,” was developed by Messe München, an organizer of international trade fairs (including the behemoth Laser World of Photonics), and the German optics and photonics trade organization Spectaris e.V., in cooperation with Fraunhofer ILT, Fraunhofer Light & Surfaces, the France-based photonics consulting firm Tematys, and the Photonics21 public-private partnership.

The study’s stated aim, according to one of the several introductions to the piece, is to examine “the profitable use of photonics for the sustainable treatment of resources from all angles.” To do so, it breaks out eight photonic technology examples—photovoltaics (PVs), energy-efficient lighting, optical communication in data centers, fiber optic networks, energy-efficient displays, optical early forest-fire detection, laser-supported metal recycling, and optical communication in 5G networks—and attempts to quantify the avoided CO2 (or CO2 equivalent) contributed by each.

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