A laser diode, also known as semiconductor laser, diode laser, or injection laser, is a semiconductor device that induces a precise, powerful beam of light (like ordinary lasers), with size close to simple LED (light-emitting diode) – the miniature colored lamp placed on electronic instrument panels.
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It is Dr Robert N. Hall of General Electric who is credited for this fantastic invention. On October 24, 1962, he filed for a patent for the idea, named “Simulated emission semiconductor devices”, and was granted patent #3,245,002 on April 5, 1966. Due to their compact size and affordable prices, laser diodes are the most widely used laser devices in the world.
How are Laser Diode Advantageous over Other Lasers?
First and foremost, laser diodes are extremely economical on power. Most laser diodes function with voltage below 2V and power requirement is induced according to the system setting. Typically, laser diodes offer an increase of more than 30% in overall efficiency.
The small size and other optical characteristics of laser diodes have made them an indispensable part of modern technology for day-to-day use applications. For example, watching a DVD is an instance of looking through semiconductor lasers, visiting a department store and buying a product swiped through the checkout is an instance of using laser diode, making a long-distance telephone call using fiber-optic cable is an instance of communication through laser diode, and using a laser printer for printing is an instance of the use of semiconductor laser resulting in legible marks on a substrate.
As such, laser diodes have replaced conventional lasers for most practical uses. Conventional lasers are often regarded as hefty beasts due to their size and weight.
What are the Trends Observed in Demand for Laser Diode across Industry Sectors?
Due to the myriad advantages of laser diodes over conventional laser technologies, the use of laser diodes has increased significantly across various end-use sectors, thus benefitting the laser diode market. Hence, the laser diode market is expected to display a CAGR of 12.6% from 2014 to 2020, increasing from a valuation of US$4.60 billion in 2013.
Expansion of the automotive and electronics industries in the emerging economies of Asia Pacific has been significantly beneficial for the global laser diode market. Laser diodes are extensively used for engraving and marking automotive plastic in the automotive industry, which accounts for a major chunk of demand for laser diodes. In 2013, the automotive industry registered a share of more than 25% in overall demand for laser diodes worldwide.
Semiconductor laser technology, like any new technology, has its fair share of cons. While the superior technology offered by laser diodes is enticing, its high initial cost limits the use of this technology. However, the growing demand for laser diodes is expected to offset the restraints and strike up a balance in the buyer-seller dynamics.
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More importantly, extraction of rare minerals from the earth necessary for laser diode production is associated with adverse environmental effects. This inhibits the growth of the laser diode market significantly. However, use of fiber lasers for high-speed communication across industries has the potential to offset this restraint.