Photonics promises processing of information with the fastest possible way. A photon can be considered as the ultimate messenger because it has no mass. So, you can pack it with much information and propagate it with the ultimate speed, which is the speed of light. Electrons, on the other hand, cannot move that fast since they have mass. Photonics is essentially faster means of processing information and therefore will dominate the future of processing devices. It is however difficult to manipulate photons, since they cannot be charged; in that sense it is much easier to manipulate electrons through an external field. But, there are some brilliant ideas with which you can manipulate light. Plasmons are density waves of electrons, created when light hits the surface of a metal under precise circumstances. These waves are generated at optical frequencies and are very small and rapid. They can theoretically encode a lot of information, more than what's possible for conventional electronics.
This ability of metal nanostructures to manipulate light at the nanoscale has resulted in an emerging research area called plasmonics. Over the past decade plasmonics has developed into a rapidly maturing and broad research field, and it is now progressively becoming an enabling technology involving an overwhelming number of interesting concepts such as chemical and biomedical sensing, information and communication technologies, solar energy harvesting, lighting, cancer treatment and surface decorations to name a few. This makes the field extremely interesting and important as the applications involve all aspects of everyday life.
Dr Kalfagiannis is a Marie Curie Fellow under the Intra-European Fellowship scheme hosted by the Electronic and Photonic Materials Research Group at Nottingham Trent University.