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Ideas from the photonics lab can improve -- and even save -- lives

We’re living in the Century of the Photon, and examples of the important roles the enabling technology of photonics and optics play in our lives are everywhere.

For examples, start with computers and the internet.

SPIE Fellow John Greivenkamp, professor of optics at the University of Arizona College of Optical Sciences, talks about the optical technologies inherent in those applications in this brief video.



A list of 50 breakthroughs contributed by researchers at America’s national labs has been compiled in a brochure published by the U.S. Department of Energy, and posted in a PDF on their website. Among the list:



  • From learning about photosynthesis came the ability to explore how to derive sustainable energy from the sun.
  • An engineered particle removes arsenic from drinking water, and an ultraviolet-light system kills microbes that cause water-borne diseases.
  • A revolution in medicine that has saved many lives with cancer-detecting nuclear imaging devices came out of development of the scintillation camera to detect gamma rays emitted by radioactive isotopes.
We heard about the brochure through the Berkeley Lab, which noted that a second printing is planned for distribution to Members of Congress and others -- great idea!

Photonics has a positive impact on the economy as well. The recently published Photonics21 Vision for a Key Enabling Technology of Europe report estimates the annual growth rate of the photonics sector at more than 10% -- several times faster than other sectors of the global economy.

Look for gentler, more effective healthcare; low-energy solid-state lighting; a greener environment protected by better pollution control; and much more: brought to you by photonics!

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