FemtoVision: “It was very interesting to look at developments of the largest Russian manufacturers”
This year, due to well-known circumstances, only representatives from Russia and Belarus took part in the Photonics exhibition. But despite this, there was no feeling of sluggish activity. In our post-Covid times any such event could not evoke any emotions except the joy of communication in person. To be honest though, it was a little sad to see empty stands reserved for Chinese exhibitors who never showed up. However, great interest was aroused by the stands of major distributors, especially those who already have experience of working with producers from China, Singapore and Korea and are able to quickly redirect the logistics chain from West to East.
It was very interesting to look at the developments of the largest Russian manufacturers presented at one large stand of the enterprises belonging to Shvabe Concern, as well as at the stands of Avesta-Project OOO, IRE-Polus OOO, the Perm Scientific and Production Instrument Company and others. A large number of small enterprises demonstrated their achievements at the stands of universities and research organisations (Bauman Moscow State Technical University, ITMO, Tomsk State University, Siberian Branch of RAS, FORC RAS, etc.). In my opinion, the business programme was very successful. There were scientific and scientific-practical reports practically on all directions of modern photonics, laser techniques, optical quantum technologies. Most of them were delivered live, although there were also online presentations, and foreign colleagues were able to participate in this format.
Since our company designs and manufactures titanium-sapphire femtosecond laser systems, I personally was particularly interested in finding colleagues who manufacture or distribute the components required for femtosecond lasers. Despite the lack of western companies, very similar, virtually indistinguishable mechanical components made in China were found very quickly. On the other hand, dielectric coatings with low GDD (group delay dispersion) were much harder to find. Despite the fact that there were many proposals for dielectric coatings at the exhibition, most of the colleagues involved in their sputtering, frankly said that this parameter simply do not control and even do not really understand how it can be done. It is hoped that some of the specialists working in this field will be interested in the task of organising the production of femtosecond mirrors, and we would be happy to cooperate with them.
Another problem that has emerged is the lack of titanium-doped sapphire manufacturers in Russia. This is despite the fact that pure sapphire is quite affordable. At one time, very good quality titanium sapphire crystals were grown at the Polyus Research Institute of M.F. Stelmakh, but about twenty years ago this production was stopped. Perhaps in the new realities the growth of such crystals in Russia will resume. As for the rest of the component base, including crystals for Pockels cells, acousto-optic modulators, high voltage drivers for them, and diffraction gratings for pulse compression, they were presented at the exhibition. Although some of their individual parameters still leave much to be desired, in general the situation with these components is not very worrying. We managed to get acquainted with a number of small companies with which we hope to cooperate in terms of electro-optics, acousto-optics and nonlinear optical frequency conversion devices for femtosecond pulses.
To conclude, I would like to note that the activity at the exhibition and its impact on the participants could be even higher, if students from specialised universities of Moscow and Moscow region (MIPT, MEPhI, Bauman Moscow State Technical University, MAI, etc.) were invited to this event purposefully. I think that such events could be useful for them not only to get acquainted with achievements in the field of photonics, but also in terms of job search (by the way, abroad "job fairs" at commercial exhibitions are a norm).
On the whole, I think that both Photonics 2022 and the conference programme held within it were very successful and on a positive note. We were able to meet many colleagues with whom we hope to continue working in the near future. As one of my well-educated friends told me, in Chinese the word "crisis" is described by the two-component formula 危机 and pronounced "Wei Ji", with "Wei" meaning danger and "Ji" meaning a time of opportunity. I can say that the general feeling from conversations with colleagues was almost exclusively about the new opportunities that have suddenly opened up. Although the times are certainly not easy.
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