The VCSEL market was valued at USD 1.48 billion in 2017 and is expected to reach USD 3.89 billion by 2023, at a CAGR of 16.9% as per a report by MarketsandMarkets.
How technological advancements in consumer electronics sector boosting the opportunities?
VCSELs have huge growth potential owing to emerging applications and are expected to boost new opportunities in the consumer electronics market. VCSEL-based time-of-flight (ToF) sensors are widely used in smartphones for distance measurement, as well as proximity sensing. Today, several devices, such as smartphones and tablets, offer navigation by touch screens or even voice and gesture recognition; several other smart sensors in such devices are based on advanced optical solutions.
VCSELs also play a vital role in gesture recognition and 3D sensing technology in consumer electronics. For instance, Apple (US), in December 2017, invested USD 390 million in Finisar (US) to boost the production of VCSELs for Apple devices. VCSELs power some of Apple’s most popular new features, including Face ID, Animoji, and portrait-mode selfies, made possible with iPhone X TrueDepth camera. Also, to control the movement based on gestures, 3D sensing can be used in consumer electronic devices such as remote controls and joysticks. VCSELs, as a light source for 3D sensors, are cost-effective and provide higher optical efficiency than distributed feedback (DFB) lasers and LEDs.
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Surge in demand for VCSELs with advancements in automotive electronics
Characteristics such as low heat and low electromagnetic interference (EMI) generation of VCSELs have made them favorable for automotive electronics. Customers today are offered with various facilities such as navigation systems, audio systems, and mobile video devices. VCSELs, thereby, prove to be an empowering technology for these developments. Automotive electronics has grown to such an extent that it constitutes ~30–40% of the total cost of an automobile.
Why overthrowing the limitations of gallium nitride restricting the performance of VCSELs?
Gallium nitride (GaN) is a semiconductor material that offers significantly improved performance characteristics for semiconductor devices. GaN-based devices can function at high voltages, high temperatures, and high power density. GaN is durable and crack-resistant; hence, it is commonly used in LEDs since the 1990s and in EELs. The use of GaN could create new application areas for VCSELs owing to all these advantages.
Researchers have been able to demonstrate GaN-based VCSELs operating at room temperatures. However, certain characteristics such as lattice mismatch, built-in polarization, and low p-conductivity of nitride materials are limiting the performance of VCSELs. As a result, there are still some technological challenges that need to be resolved before introducing GaN-based VCSELs on a commercial scale. Some institutes are conducting research and trying to develop GaN-based VCSELs. For instance, researchers from Meijo University and Nagoya University in Japan are making efforts to overcome this challenge.
Limited data transmission range
VCSEL has been an effective technology for short-range applications, such as local area network (LAN), optical data communication, Ethernet, and intrasystem links. The ever-growing data has raised the need for large-data-capacity and cost-effective architecture of fiber optics network. Laser suppliers always try to improve on the distance range served by their products. As attenuation is higher in multimode optical fiber, the optical signal degrades faster with distance, thereby shortening the achievable distance, but it has more to do with the fiber than the laser. Transmitting this data over a certain distance can prove problematic due to the weakening of the signal.
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