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Green energy, automobile safety, human health: a few of the topics at Photonics West

Are you headed for SPIE Photonics West in San Francisco later this month? Have you sorted out which papers you want to hear -- from among the 4,127 on the program?

If you’d like a much shorter list to consider, here are some ideas we collected from conference chairs and others who have studied the program.

While these technologies cover the full range of the four-symposium event, they are representative of all 4,000 papers in their focus on solving the challenges facing the world: They offer promise for detecting cancer in time to enable a cure, restoring vision, detecting clandestine nuclear weapons, enhancing automobile safety, improving both energy efficiency and human health with solid-state lighting, and much more.


7885-23 “OCT-guided femtosecond laser system for cataract surgery,” Daniel Palanker (Stanford Univ. School of Medicine), et al. A new technique using a femtosecond laser to break up damaged lenses before removal can make cataract surgery easier and more precise.

7901-43 “Kinetics and pathogenesis of intracellular iron-oxide nanoparticle hyperthermia,” Andrew Giustini (Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Ctr.), et al. Per conference chair Thomas Ryan, “Surgery, radiation and chemotherapy are currently the most commonly used cancer therapies, although thermal treatment in medicine began about 40 years ago. The challenge with heating is to target the heat to individual cells (e.g., cancer cells), thus potentially sparing associated normal cells in the surrounding areas. Magnetic nanoparticles are used such that they accumulate within the interior of cancer cells. Once the nanoparticles are activated in the tumor cells, the heat from the nanoparticles will eliminate the cancer cell through thermal therapy.”

7907-24 “Optical screening for lung cancer using epithelial cells obtained from buccal mucosa (cheek cells),” Hariharan Subramanian (Northwestern Univ.), et al.  Conference chair Adam Wax noted that this paper describes “an extremely promising result that points the way to being able to detect the presence of lung cancer with a simple scraping of cells from the inside of the cheek. The potential for this approach to change detection of lung cancer, and thus save lives, is tremendous.”


7913-26 “Octave spanning frequency combs from microresonators,” Tobias Kippengerg (Max-Planck-Institute für Quantenoptik). The discovery of a method for coupling photons and mechanical vibrations to control and modulate the flow of light could have numerous applications in telecommunications and quantum information technologies.

7916-6 “MEGa-rays: the dawn of nuclear photonics with laser-based gamma-rays,” Christopher Barty, (Lawrence Livermore National Lab). The optimized interaction of short duration, intense laser pulses with high-charge bunches of relativistic electrons can efficiently produce mono-energetic gamma-rays (MEGa-rays) of unprecedented peak brilliance. At 2 MeV, MEGa-ray sources currently under development at LLNL will exceed the peak brilliance of the world's largest synchrotrons by more than 15 orders of magnitude. This revolutionary jump in brilliance enables "nuclear photonics", i.e., the isotope-specific interaction of the photon with the nucleus of the atom. New solutions to an astonishingly wide variety of critical and near-term national nuclear problems such as high-confidence detection of clandestine nuclear weapons material and precision, non-invasive assay of spent nuclear fuel assemblies are possible.

7950-13 “Measuring the orbital angular momentum of light,” Miles Padgett (Univ. of Glasgow), et al. What conference chair David Andrews called “a groundbreaking and potentially very important paper” describes a new simple optical system for the highly efficient sorting of orbital angular momentum states. The system uses an image reformatter to map each input state onto a different lateral position in the output aperture. This near-perfect, separation of states potentially makes available the high information capacity of OAM in both classical and quantum applications.


7930-13 “MEMS-scanned laser head-up display, Mark Freeman (Microvision). Head-up displays (HUD) in automobiles have been shown to significantly reduce accident rates by keeping the driver's eyes on the road. Scanned laser display technology is particularly well-suited to this application since the lasers can be very efficiently relayed to the driver's eyes. Additionally, the lasers are only turned on where the light is needed in the image. This helps to provide the required brightness while minimizing power and avoiding a background glow that disturbs the see-through experience.

7932-11 “Non-contact 3D fingerprint scanner using structured light illumination,” Mike Troy (Flashscan3D) et al. As crime prevention and national security remain a top priority, requirements for the use of fingerprints for identification continue to grow. As the size of fingerprint databases continues to expand, new technologies that can improve accuracy and ultimately matching rates will become more critical to maintain the effectiveness of the systems. A non-contact fingerprint scanner based on the principles of structured light illumination captures 3D data of fingerprints quickly, accurately, and independently of an operator.


7933-3 “Hot carrier solar cells: the ultimate photovoltaic conversion in practice,” Jean-Francois Guillemoles (Institut de Recherche et Développement sur l'Energie Photovoltaïque). Hot carrier solar cells (HCSC) provide an attractive solution to overtake the intrinsic efficiency limit for solar cells. By converting with improved efficiency the high energy range of the solar spectrum into electric power, they may allow conversion efficiencies above 50%, exceeding the single junction limit. Models have been proposed for ideal cells, where all losses are neglected. This papers reports on a model for a more realistic device including carrier extraction, carrier thermalization, and absorptivity losses, and compares the model to experimental data obtained on test epitaxial structures.

7939-28 “Power electronics for hybrid and all electronic automobiles,” Tetsu Kachi (Toyota Central Research and Development Labs). Power control circuits play important roles in hybrid and electric vehicles. Higher performance power devices are needed to improve efficiency and system cost, and new devices being developed are suitable for automotive applications.

7954-1 “Energy-efficient lighting for the human biological clock,” Dieter Lang (OSRAM) -- part of the LEDs conference special session on Light and Health: Human Factors for SSL. Noted conference chair Li-Wei Tu, “The advancing technologies of tunable LEDs enable the power of smart lighting solutions for energy efficiency while being biologically effective.”

7957-10 “Color holography for museums: bringing the artifacts back to the people,” Hans Bjelkhagen (Glyndwr Univ.), et al. “This is the first time museums have arranged an exhibition using the new super-realistic color holograms recorded in nano-structured recording materials, to display artifacts instead of using the real objects,” Bjelkhagen said. “The images are so real that it is not possible to see the difference between the artifact itself and the image of it.” Representative holograms will be on display during the presentation.

What presentations are you planning to see at Photonics West?


  1. Great to see that the cancer detection method in the Subramanian hot paper won first prize in the Biophotonics Startup Challenge at Photonics West!


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