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30 May 2012

Photonics growth on the horizon


Meeting the challenge of successfully converting research into innovation is a major goal of the European Commission's Horizon 2020 initiative, as Thierry Van der Pyl, Director of Components and Systems in the EC's Information Society and Media Directorate-General, discusses in this new SPIE.TV video interview.

Organized to leverage the interdisciplinary nature of solutions to challenges in energy, lighting, communications, healthcare, manufacturing other areas, Horizon 2020 aims to improve Europe's ability to transform knowledge into applications that have an economic impact through the strength of public-private partnership, Van der Pyl says.

Photonics is truly a vital part of the interdisciplinary mix, and well-deserving of its recognition by the EC as one of six Key Enabling Technologies. The June 2011 report of the High-Level Expert Group on Key Enabling Technologies estimated that the 5,000 photonics companies in the EU directly employed 300,000 people. Further, the report's estimate that more than 2 million jobs in the EU manufacturing sector depend directly on photonics products illustrates the infusion of technology throughout the economy.

What's next?

Recent research advances in solar energy, fiber sensors, biomedical imaging, and other areas of photonics were covered  by Van der Pyl, Demetri Psaltis (Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne), Lihong Wang (Washington University in St. Louis), Kyriacos Kalli (Cyprus University of Technology), and John Dudley (Université de Franche-Comté) in Hot Topics talks at last month's SPIE Photonics Europe.

Industry perspectives were also provided, and can be viewed in video presentation format:
The challenges exist -- and photonics is rich in potential solutions.

18 May 2012

Restoring sight ― with photonics



Talk about changing life for the better: We've been hearing a lot lately about work by Daniel Palanker's group at Stanford University in restoring sight with a retinal prosthesis using a photovoltaic chip. In the video above, Palanker details the wireless system in the BiOS Hot Topics session at SPIE Photonics West last January.

The Stanford method is intended for people experiencing retinal degenerative disorders. It uses a photocell sub-retinal implant and an external projection system to relay images from an outside camera using near-infrared (IR) light directed to the photocell array, which is made from a thinned silicon safer that is flexible enough to match the contour of the eye.

The surgical implant is a simple procedure, and provides the patient with a near-normal gaze angle. Using light in the IR spectrum avoids complications from viable retina tissues.

Research team member James Loudin received the Pascal Rol Foundation Award, sponsored by Topcon Advanced Biomedical Imaging Lab, at Photonics West in 2011 in recognition of the work.

Read more about the work in the Stanford University press release or view the abstract and access the group's latest publication in the SPIE Digital Library.

08 May 2012

Who's teaching photonics now?



It's Shaman, a great horned owl, naturally, featured in the video above with handler Sunni Robertson, a lead educator guide at the San Diego, California, Zoo. Robertson was presenting at what has become a very popular session at the SPIE Smart Structures and Nondestructive Evaluation (NDE) symposium each spring.

Staff from the San Diego Zoo Animal Ambassadors program participate in a session on biomimicry and bioinspiration, demonstrating how studying animals can inspire ideas for solving design problems. In the case of the owl, insights for optical design were gained from studying how owls' eyes function, and for acoustics as well. Engineers looking for a way to reduce noise of Japan's high-speed trains as they travel through cities and across the countryside found answers in examining the construction of the owl's wings.

The zoo's biomimicry education program dovetails with a conference on Biomimetics, Bioinspiration, and Bioreplication, chaired in 2012 by Ahklesh Lahktakia of Pennsylvania State University.

In addition to gaining inspiration from owls, engineers and scientists are finding ideas for sensors in studying spider legs, for prosthetic muscles in honeycombs, and for broadband communications in the nanoscale structures that create camouflage for silvery fish in the ocean.