Over the past 50 years, the field of photonics — the scientific study and application of light — has blossomed to become one of the most important enabling technologies of our time. The development of devices such as the laser, the light-emitting diode, the low-loss optical fibre and the CCD (charge-coupled device) detector have transformed the world around us, improving performance in applications such as data communication, materials processing, imaging, biomedicine, lighting and home entertainment.
Fundamental research in photonics is compelling in its own right and promises further transformational technologies. For example, the creation of artificial materials with a negative refractive index is not only cutting-edge multidisciplinary research but holds out the prospect of increasingly high resolution in the detection of, and processing by, light. Engineering materials that trap photons in 'photonic crystals' will, it is hoped, lead to new types of optical memory, and the development of silicon-based all-optical circuits is expected to transform the fields of communications and computation.
Given the excitement and importance of photonics, there is plenty of scope for a journal that captures outstanding research as well as the technologies and their impacts, including commercial developments, and that caters for anyone seriously interested in photonic science and engineering. Accordingly, this month sees the launch of Nature Photonics (see http://www.nature.com/nphoton), whose first issue contains articles spanning the above topics and more.
Nature itself will continue to publish high-impact papers in photonics — the launches of research journals including Nature Physics, Nature Materials and Nature Nanotechnology have never diluted Nature's role in their respective disciplines, but have provided new outlets for top-quality research and discussion.
In publishing terms, Nature Photonics is distinctive among the Nature group of journals in being the first to have its editorial headquarters in our offices in Tokyo (supported by associate editors in London and San Francisco). This development will further strengthen editorial links with the research community in Asia Pacific, which is particularly strong in photonics. However, like all Nature journals, Nature Photonics is truly international and will publish research from around the globe without geographical preference.