What is Photonics?


Photonics is the science and application of light; it is the technology of generating, controlling, and detecting light.

The characteristics of the waves of light or individual photons that make up light can be used to explore the universe, cure diseases, and even solve crimes. Photonics is so ubiquitous in our daily lives that the 21st century has been called the Age of the Photon.

Scientists have been studying light for hundreds of years, but it was only in the 17th century that Sir Isaac Newton showed that white light is made of different colors of light. The colors of the rainbow are only a small part of the entire wavelength range of light, called the electromagnetic spectrum.

 Photonics covers the full electromagnetic spectrum, from gamma rays to radio, including X-rays, ultraviolet (UV), and infrared (IR)light.

Technologies and Applications

Photonics technology, the applications it enables, and related services such as cloud computing, streaming video, medical diagnostics, and mapping currently underpin about 13% of the global economy. As the global economy expands, so too do the opportunities for photonics applications and services.

Photonics has uses in almost every aspect of our life, ranging from daily life to highly innovative science. For instance, information processing, telecommunications, light detection, metrology, lighting, spectroscopy, photonic computing, holography, medical field (surgery, vision correction, health monitoring and endoscopy), fighting machinery, visual art, agriculture, laser material processing, robotics, and biophotonics.

Photonics in Israel

Israel has three pillars on which it can base its advantage in the global photonics market: academic excellence, defense industry and a prominent industrial (civil) presence.

Academy: Seven leading universities in Israel (Ben Gurion University, Bar Ilan University, Tel Aviv University, Haifa University, the Hebrew University, the Weizmann Institute and the Technion) conduct photonics research in various departments and at the Nano-Photonics Institute (at the BINA Center in Bar Ilan). The Lev Institute in Jerusalem provided education in the field of photonics to about 15% of all engineers in the field of optics and photonics in Israel. The Center for Nuclear Research – Soreq is active in the field of lasers and optical materials, photonics, and structured fibers.

The leading fields of research in academia in Israel are:

  • Integrated photonics.
  • Quantum optics.
  • Diffractive and phase optics.
  • Hyperspectral imaging.
  • Remote sensing.
  • Opto-fluidic MEMS (Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems);
  • Optical materials and fibers.
  • Microscopy, optical communication, and cryptography.
  • Opto genetics and biomedical optics.

Industry: In Israel, there are a number of anchor companies in the field of photonics, including Orbotech (traded on NASDAQ), Rafael, Applied Materials, Syneron, Ophir Optronics, Given Imaging, Sivan Advanced Technologies, Elbit Systems, Semi-Conductor Devices (SCD) and more. In addition, there are a large number (about 300 companies) of small companies, most of them start-ups.

The National Photonics Center: Soreq Nuclear Research Center (SNRC) and the Ben Gurion University of the Negev have won a tender for the establishment of the National Photonics Center with a total investment of over NIS 180 million. The center will provide solutions for both industry and academia, as is customary at Fraunhofer institutes in Germany and similar centers in Korea (KANK), Canada and the United States.

The planned National Photonics Center will include a cleanroom system where epitaxial growth will take place, that is, the production of electro-optical components and the development of new components by growing monocrystalline layers of semiconductor materials on various substrates, such as gallium arsenide. Through this process, it is possible to produce components with special electrical and optical properties. It will serve the entire industry and academia.


According to the Ministry of Defense website, the Optronics Department of the Research and Development Unit is responsible for initiating and developing technologies, components, prototypes, and electro-optical systems required in the long term for use by IDF arms and defense systems. The Optronics Department is engaged in the development of core technologies in the field of electro-optics and is working to develop advanced systems together with the large defense industries, along with innovative development in start-ups and small companies. The department is engaged in the research and development of advanced systems of its kind, capable of collecting

Quality intelligence day and night, on the ground and in the air, through accurate detection and optometric locating and identifying threats at the forces in the field, in the development of laser systems for many and varied applications and in the development of systems for the protection of passenger aircraft.