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Eight to anticipate: photonics technologies coming our way

Optics and photonics technologies are at work improving our lives in many ways.

These technologies are what provide sustainable lighting and energy-generation systems. Nanoparticles are used to rapidly diagnose disease or derive 3D images of living, functioning cells. Optical resonators detect counterfeit or pirated goods. Airborne telescopes probe deep into the Universe while optical fibers send messages instantly across the globe.

Engineers and scientists from around the world meet every August at SPIE Optics + Photonics in San Diego to advance research in several broad areas of optics and photonics. A few of the 3,000+ researchers who will present reports next week have provided previews via articles they have authored recently for the SPIE Newsroom.

Multicolor rapid diagnostics for infectious disease,” Kimberly Hamad-Schifferli, Chunwan Yen, Helena de Puig, José Goméz-Marquéz, Irene Bosch and Lee Gehrke [ref. 9923-28, Tuesday 30 August, 9 a.m.]
Recent epidemic outbreaks have highlighted the need for a rapid point-of-care assay that can provide a diagnosis to enable treatment, proper quarantining, and disease surveillance. One promising diagnostic is the lateral flow test, i.e., the same type of assay used in pregnancy tests: a paper strip to which a biological fluid is added. These are attractive for diagnostics because they are inexpensive, easy to use, and do not require special reagents or experts to run them.

Custom complex 3D microtubule networks for experimentation and engineering,” Michael Vershinin, Jared Bergman and Florence Doval [ref. 9930-4, Sunday 28 August, 10 a.m.]
Cargo logistics — driven by cytoskeletal motors and proceeding along actin and microtubule filaments — are an essential subsystem of the overall machinery of eukaryotic cells. It is no stretch to say that virtually every process in a living cell depends, directly or indirectly, on proper routing of cargoes in a timely fashion. Much progress has been made in the last few decades in understanding the structure and properties of individual filaments and motors, but clean experimental modeling of how these components add up to a functional cytoskeleton still poses many challenges.

Anisotropic Fabry-Perot resonators for anticounterfeiting applications,” In-Ho Lee, Eui-Sang Yu, Se-Um Kim and Sin-Doo Lee [ref. 9940-2, Sunday 28 August, 8:55 a.m.].
The prevalence of counterfeited and pirated goods in modern society has increased the demand for anticounterfeiting technologies. Global trade of such items in 2015 was estimated to be worth $960 billion, and a danger to 2.5 million jobs. Much effort has been made in the development of smart security labels designed to hide information in normal conditions and reveal it in others.

Organic LEDs with low power consumption and long lifetimes,” Satoshi Seo [ref. 9941-18, Sunday 28 August, 4:40 p.m.]
An LED with an emissive organic thin film sandwiched between the anode and cathode is known as an organic-LED (OLED). The emission mechanism of an OLED is superficially similar to that of a standard LED, i.e., holes and electrons are injected from the anode and cathode, respectively, and these carriers recombine to form excited states (excitons) that lead to light emission. In recent years, smartphones and TVs with OLED displays have rapidly become widespread because OLEDs provide high contrast, a wide color gamut, light weight, thinness, and flexibility for the displays. OLEDs also have great potential for the creation of new lighting applications. The high power consumption and short lifetime of OLEDs, however, remain key issues.

Using femtosecond lasers to grow nonlinear optical crystals in glass,” Carl Liebig, Jonathan Goldstein, Sean McDaniel, Eric Glaze, Doug Krein and Gary Cook [ref. 9958-5, Sunday 28 August, 10:30 a.m.]
Non-centrosymmetric crystals whose optical response does not vary linearly with the strength of an electric field — known as nonlinear optical (NLO) crystals — are the fundamental building blocks for most electro-optic applications. The production of novel NLO crystals is very difficult because it entails bulk techniques that require long growth times and expensive equipment, and that often result in low-quality crystals. For more than three decades, lasers have been used to make modifications to glass refractive indices in the fabrication of high-efficiency waveguides. In recent work, the use of femtosecond laser sources facilitates the fabrication of multidimensional structures composed of many types of NLO crystals.

Synchrotron ‘pink beam’ tomography for the study of dynamic processes,” Mark Rivers [ref. 9967-33, Tuesday 30 August, 3:00 p.m.]
Computerized axial tomography scanning has revolutionized medical imaging, and through microtomography, its spatial resolution can be reduced from the millimeter scale to the micrometer scale. Microtomography has developed rapidly, driven by developments in x-ray sources, computers, and particularly in detectors. There are now microtomography systems available for laboratory use and microtomography has been applied to fields including biology, geology, soil science, and the study of meteorites. Monochromatic beams are generally unsuitable for dynamic studies. So-called pink beam microtomography is an alternative.

Making unique IR observations with an airborne 2.5m telescope,” Eric Becklin, Maureen Savage, Erick Young and Dana Backman [ref. 9973-17, Tuesday 30 August, 8:30 a.m.]
Large parts of the IR spectrum are inaccessible in observations made from ground-based telescopes because of absorption by water vapor in the atmosphere.For this reason, the Stratospheric Observatory for IR Astronomy (SOFIA) — a joint project between NASA and the German Aerospace Center (DLR) — was designed and has been operational since 2010. SOFIA has become a key facility for several astronomy investigations, e.g., for studying regions of star formation, observing objects obscured by interstellar dust, and making time-critical measurements of transient events.

Robust photon-pair source survives rocket explosion,” Zhongkan Tang, Rakhitha Chandrasekara, Yue Chuan Tan, Cliff Cheng, Kadir Durak and Alexander Ling [ref. 9980-8, Monday 29 August, 8:05 a.m.]
Quantum key distribution (QKD) is of much interest for quantum communications because of its high level of privacy (underpinned by quantum mechanics). In particular, entanglement-based QKD is a powerful technique in which quantum correlations between photons are leveraged. In this process, the entangled photons can be distributed with the use of optical fibers or ground-level free-space links. Current QKD networks, however, suffer from a distance limit because of fiber losses and the lack of quantum repeaters.

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