While the billion dollar market for infrared spectroscopy has modest forecast growth, the worldwide market for infrared sensors and systems is projected to grow explosively over the next 10 years. Infrared lasers are a key part of this growth story, offering a major improvement in detection and the ability to migrate from complex instrumentation to real world industrial and portable solutions. Potential applications for tunable infrared lasers can be found throughout and beyond the existing infrared spectroscopy markets, including industrial, scientific, defense, medical and environmental monitoring applications. In addition, there are many emerging applications specifically enabled by tunable infrared lasers, including chemical and biological sensing, biotechnology cell detection and sorting, disease detection through breath analysis, remote air quality monitoring, and contaminant detection in water and other liquids and materials.
Broadly tunable infrared lasers are now a reality thanks to the availability of broad gain QC lasers and external cavity tuning. Broad tuning greatly enhances detection of molecular absorption lines by scanning off and on (or through) spectral features of interest, while removing the effects of contaminants or other background interference sources. Tuning over a wide range is also ideal for detecting multiple gases, liquids, and complex molecules throughout the 3-12 um infrared region. Virtually every competitor within the infrared spectroscopy market is closely following or putting resources into infrared lasers, as it is a potential game changer for the industry.